Qualitative and Quantitative Assessment

There are many frequently adopted techniques for analyzing the erosively altered dental hard tissues in dental research, but these are routinely performed on extracted teeth and are not useful for clinical evaluation of patients. Due to the complex nature of dental erosion and dissolution, a single technique may not provide a full enough picture of the extent of damage, and different approaches may be needed for full understanding. The most established and well-evaluated techniques include, but are not limited to:

  • Scanning Electron Microscopy: This is a subjective, qualitative method for closely observing surface alterations of teeth. It is one of the few methods that are suitable for early erosion.
  • Surface Hardness Measurements: This is a low-cost quantitative method that uses a diamond tip for calculating the tiny indentations of the tooth surface where enamel or dentin has been eroded.
  • Surface Profilometry: This is a time-consuming quantitative method that uses a laser beam or contact stylus to scan surface roughness.
  • Iodide Permeability Test: This is a low-cost qualitative method that only provides information about pore volumes, with larger pores signifying more erosion.
  • Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy: This provides high-resolution, 3-D images for quantitative assessment and interpretation of hard tissue destruction or mineral dissolution. It is suitable for early erosion.
  • Ultrasonic Measurement of Enamel Thickness: This is a quantitative method that calculates enamel thickness by measuring the time interval between the transmission of an ultrasonic pulse on the enamel surface and the echo produced by the amelodentinal junction.

In addition, it is recommended that dentists use simple methods like photography or silicone impressions to assess further progression in a clinical setting.