Mineral loss in early caries cannot be measured without invasive procedures. To quantify mineral loss without sectioning the tooth, one must determine the optical scattering of the enamel. Using enamel white-spot lesions, we hypothesize that the optical scattering power (Sp) of the demineralized enamel would provide a quantitative estimate of mineral loss. Enamel slabs were demineralized to produce artificial white spots. The data were acquired by means of a Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) camera and image-processing software. For the purpose of comparison, mineral loss (ΔZ) of the demineralized samples was determined by the use of a microhardness approach after the samples were sectioned. The scattering power correlated well with ΔZ (r2 = 0.82). In contrast, simple reflectance of the demineralized samples correlated poorly with ΔZ (r2 = 0.22). The validity of using scattering power to measure demineralization has been confirmed by a three-dimensional Monte Carlo Simulation.
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