Salivary pellicle is an organic biofilm formed by the physisorption of proteins and carbohydrates onto the surface of dental enamel exposed to the oral environment. The pellicle has several key roles in oral physiology including lubrication and reduction of friction between teeth during mastication, as well as chemical protection of the enamel against acidic solutions. However, pellicle proteins are known to react with dietary compounds to cause extrinsic staining on the tooth surface.
In this study, nanoindentation and AFM have been used in vitro to examine the acquired salivary pellicle formed in vivo on dental enamel. The mechanical properties, growth, structure and morphology of pellicle grown in vivo on human enamel surfaces have been analysed. In addition, the effects of dietary agents such as polyphenols on the pellicle's morphology and properties have been studied.
It was found that initial adsorption of proteins on the enamel surface occurred within 30 seconds of exposure to the oral cavity, with full growth achieved within 2 hours. Differences in the properties of the pellicles such as surface adhesion, and time dependent effects due to polyphenol interaction were measured using nanoindentation. It was seen that the polyphenol interaction has a significant effect on these properties. These results suggest that the stained pellicle is mechanically stiffer, but also less viscous and more fluid like. This could explain why traditional tooth brushing techniques do not efficiently remove this layer.