Differences in the Natural Enamel Surface and Acquired Enamel Pellicle following Exposure to Citric or Hydrochloric Acid

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Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate variations in the interaction between enamel, that is, the acquired enamel pellicle (AEP) and citric or hydrochloric acid. Materials and Methods: A 24-h AEP was formed on natural enamel specimens (n = 40) from pooled whole mouth human saliva. Samples were randomly allocated to citric (0.3%, pH 3.2) or hydrochloric (HCl) acid (0.01 M, pH 2.38) exposure for 30 or 300 s. The total protein concentration (TPC), and phosphorous and calcium concentrations of the pellicle were determined before and after acid exposure, and again after re-immersion in saliva. Surface roughness and tandem scanning confocal microscopy imaging were used to assess enamel changes. Results: After 300 s of citric acid exposure, the mean ± SD TPC reduced from 5.1 ± 1.1 to 3.5 ± 1.1 mg/mL (p < 0.05). In contrast, after 300 s of HCl exposure, the mean TPC did not reduce significantly from baseline (6.6 ± 1.1 to 5.7 ± 0.7 mg/mL) but was significantly reduced in the reformed pellicle to 4.9 ± 1.2 mg/mL (p < 0.001). This reduction occurred after significant release of calcium and phosphorous from the enamel surface (p < 0.001). Thirty seconds of exposure to either acid had no obvious effect on the AEP. The surface roughness of the enamel decreased after acid exposure but no differences between groups was observed. Conclusions: These findings indicate that citric acid interacted with proteins in the AEP upon contact, offering enamel protection. In contrast, HCl appeared to bypass the pellicle, and reduced protein was observed only after changes in the enamel chemical composition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)226-233
Number of pages8
JournalCaries research
Issue number3
Early online date21 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Acid
  • Acquired enamel pellicle
  • Enamel
  • Saliva


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