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Arch Oral Biol. 1998 Aug;43(8):649-56.

Scanning microradiographic studies of rates of in vitro demineralization in human and bovine dental enamel.

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Department of Biophysics in relation to Dentistry, St. Bartholomew's and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary and Westfield College, UK.


The aim was to measure frequently and with precision the local integrated mineral loss through small areas of the natural surface of human and bovine enamel during in vitro demineralization using an X-ray photon-counting system (scanning microradiography). The method used was an adaptation of photographic longitudinal microradiography in which the attenuation of X-rays through the enamel is measured in the direction of acid attack, i.e., normal to the enamel surface. The mass of mineral (assumed to be hydroxyapatite) per unit exposed area was measured over 15 microm dia. circles at a series of positions as a function of time in blocks of human and bovine enamel immersed in 0.1 mol/l acetic acid buffered to pH 4.0 with NaOH. There was an initial period (approx. 45 h for human, approx. 75 h for bovine enamel) during which the mineral loss with time was sigmoidal, followed by a nearly linear loss for the remainder of the experiment, in some cases up to 500 h. The initial sigmoidal period may be due to properties of surface enamel or be associated with the development of a surface layer overlying subsurface demineralization. The essentially constant rate of mineral loss after the surface layer has formed confirms earlier observations and is consistent with a rate-limiting process occurring at the dissolving enamel surfaces of the advancing front, and not by transport of ions within the lesion. Small perturbations from a linear loss were seen, which were approximately periodic for human enamel. The slope of the linear period was rather constant within one human or bovine block, but variable between blocks without a clear distinction between human and bovine enamel.

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