A hydrazine deproteination process was used to investigate the role of enamel proteins in the acid erosion of mature human dental enamel. Bright field high resolution transmission electron micrographs and x-ray diffraction analysis show no crystallographic changes after the hydrazine treatment with similar nanoscale hydroxyapatite crystallite size and orientation for sound and de-proteinated enamel. However, the presence of enamel proteins reduces the erosion depth, the loss of hardness and the loss of structural order in enamel, following exposure to citric acid. Nanoindentation creep is larger for sound enamel than for deproteinated enamel but it reduces in sound enamel after acid attack. These novel results are consistent with calcium ion-mediated visco-elasticty in enamel matrix proteins as described previously for nacre, bone and dental proteins. They are also in good agreement with a previous double layer force spectroscopy study by the authors which found that the proteins electrochemically buffer enamel against acid attack. Finally, this suggests that acid attack, and more specifically dental erosion, is influenced by ionic permeation through the enamel layer and that it is mitigated by the enamel protein matrix.
- dental erosion
- TEM microscopy