2009 Volume 72 Issue 4+5 Pages 209-215
High-speed atomic force microscopy (HS AFM) in ‘contact' mode was used to image at video rate the surfaces of both calcium hydroxyapatite samples, often used as artificial dental enamel in such experiments, and polished actual bovine dental enamel in both neutral and acidic aqueous environments. The image in each frame of the video of the sample was a few micrometers square, and the high-speed scan window was panned across the sample in real time to examine larger areas. Conventional AFM images of the same regions of the sample were also recorded before and after high-speed imaging. The ability of HS AFM to follow processes occurring in liquid on the timescale of a few seconds was employed to study the dissolution process of both hydroxyapatite and bovine enamel under acidic conditions. Buffered citric acid at pH values between 3.0 and 4.0 was observed to dissolve the surface layers of these samples. The movies recorded showed rapid dissolution of the bovine enamel in particular, which proceeded until the relatively small amount of acid available had been exhausted. A comparison was made with enamel samples that had been treated in fluoride solution (1 h in 300 ppm NaF, pH 7) prior to addition of the acid; the speed of dissolution for these samples was much less than that of the untreated samples. The HS AFM used an in-house designed and constructed high-speed flexure scan stage employing a push-pull piezo actuator arrangement. The HS AFM is able to follow the large changes in height (on the micrometer scale) that occur during the dissolution process.