OBJECTIVES: Investigation of early enamel erosion using replica impressions to compare changes in enamel surface topography in vivo prior to and over a 24 h period following acid challenge.
METHOD: A single treatment, blinded, enamel replica clinical study was undertaken in 20 healthy subjects. Replica tooth impressions were taken at baseline, following acid challenge and 2, 4, 7 and 24 h post challenge. Subjects consumed 500 ml of acidic soft drink over 30 min. Scanning electron microscopy of surface tomography was characterised with a descriptive 5 point scale by four judges. Duplicate impressions were taken to assess reproducibility.
RESULTS: 18 subjects had scorable sequences. Descriptive analyses showed erosive changes following acid consumption and reparative changes in the subsequent 24 h period. Comparing baseline replica to the 24 h replica, there were no significant differences (p=0.26) in tooth surface characteristics. Comparing the replica taken immediately following acidic challenge with the subsequent replicas at 2, 4, 7 and 24 h, showed clear reduction of erosive effects on the enamel surface at 2 h (p=0.02) and a highly significant reduction at 4, 7 and 24 h (p<0.001).
CONCLUSION: This methodology demonstrated the ability to follow the progression and recovery of early erosive enamel lesions over 24 h being accurate and reproducible. This study suggests enamel repair commences within 2 h following a substantial acidic challenge and is completed 4-24 h later. After 24 h, the tooth surface appeared visibly indistinguishable from the original tooth surface, suggestive of a recovery process occurring.
CLINICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Healthy erosive lifestyles often culminate in tooth wear. The time taken for enamel remineralisation following acidic challenge is unknown however, this study suggests the repair process is relatively slow following a substantial acidic challenge, and at least 4-24 h should elapse prior to further acidic consumption to allow for recovery.