Researchers used atomic force microscopy (AFM) to evaluate how acidic and sugary drinks affect human tooth enamel at the nanoscale level. This approach is useful for measuring changes that occur over time during enamel erosion induced by beverages.

Enamel is the hard-white substance that forms the outer part of a tooth. Its resilient surface is 96% mineral, the highest percentage of any body tissue, making it durable and damage resistant. The enamel acts as a barrier to protect the soft inner layers of the tooth, but can become susceptible to degradation by acids and sugars.

Once tooth enamel is damaged, it cannot be brought back. A research team led by Prof. Seungbum Hong from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) reported a new method of applying ATM techniques to study the nanoscale characterisation of this early stage of enamel erosion. This study was introduced in the Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials (JMBBM) on June 29.

The authors of the study chose three commercially available popular beverages, Coca-Cola, Sprite, and Minute Maid, and immersed tooth enamel in these drinks over time to analyse their impacts on human teeth and monitor the etching process on tooth enamel.

The researchers observed that the surface roughness of the tooth enamel increased significantly as the immersion time increased, while the elastic modulus of the enamel surface decreased drastically. It was demonstrated that the enamel surface roughened five times more when it was immersed in beverages for 10 minutes, and that the elastic modulus of tooth enamel was five times lower after five minutes in the drinks.