Objectives: This review sets out to examine the suitability of bovine hard dental material in lieu of human material when investigating dental erosion, to review the evidence for the major factors popularly attributed to dental erosion: pH, pKa, acid type, erosion duration, temperature and stirring rate as well as examine the case for the use of fluoride in an anti-erosion capacity. Data sources: Published works were selected using online search software ICI Web of Knowledge and Pubmed, with key terms such as "enamel", "erosion" and "bovine AND human" and cross referenced with relevant papers cited in the indices. Results: The growing trend of dental erosion, coupled to legislative changes has precipitated a recent shortage of human enamel and dentine for experimental work. This in turn has resulted in the increasing use of cheap and readily available alternate supplies being sourced. This alternate supply principally originates from beef cattle under 20 months of age, under the assumption that bovine enamel and dentine will behave in a manner similar to human material. Recent experiments attempting to compare the physicochemical properties of these two species have shown that erosion is not simply a matter of bulk tissue loss resulting from acid exposure, but a multi-factorial event encompassing ever increasing and varied complexity of the inter-relationship between solvent and substrate. Conclusions: Accurate data from the published literature regarding the comparative properties of human and bovine hard dental tissue remains scarce but consensus appears to accept the continuing use of bovine enamel as a substitute for human enamel. This lack of comparative data is further hampered by the lack of an established, standardised protocol with which to evaluate the two species. In addition, much debate remains regarding the significant principal factors responsible for dental erosion and ways to minimise the pathological manifestation.
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