Atomic force microscopy in vitro study of surface roughness and fractal character of a dental restoration composite after air-polishing

Biomed Eng Online. 2010 Oct 12:9:59. doi: 10.1186/1475-925X-9-59.


Background: Surface roughness is the main factor determining bacterial adhesion, biofilm growth and plaque formation on the dental surfaces in vivo. Air-polishing of dental surfaces removes biofilm but can also damage the surface by increasing its roughness. The purpose of this study was to investigate the surface damage of different conditions of air-polishing performed in vitro on a recently introduced dental restorative composite.

Methods: Abrasive powders of sodium bicarbonate and glycine, combined at different treatment times (5, 10 and 30 s) and distances (2 and 7 mm), have been tested. The resulting root mean square roughness of the surfaces has been measured by means of atomic force microscopy, and the data have been analyzed statistically to assess the significance. Additionally, a fractal analysis of the samples surfaces has been carried out.

Results: The minimum surface roughening was obtained by air-polishing with glycine powder for 5 s, at either of the considered distances, which resulted in a mean roughness of ~300 nm on a 30 × 30 μm2 surface area, whereas in the other cases it was in the range of 400-750 nm. Both untreated surfaces and surfaces treated with the maximum roughening conditions exhibited a fractal character, with comparable dimension in the 2.4-2.7 range, whereas this was not the case for the surfaces treated with the minimum roughening conditions.

Conclusions: For the dental practitioner it is of interest to learn that use of glycine in air polishing generates the least surface roughening on the considered restorative material, and thus is expected to provide the lowest rate of bacterial biofilm growth and dental plaque formation. Furthermore, the least roughening behaviour identified has been correlated with the disappearance of the surface fractal character, which could represent an integrative method for screening the air polishing treatment efficacy.

MeSH terms

  • Air*
  • Dental Materials / chemistry*
  • Dental Polishing / adverse effects*
  • Dental Restoration Repair*
  • Dentifrices
  • Fractals*
  • Glycine / chemistry
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force*
  • Sodium Bicarbonate / chemistry
  • Surface Properties


  • Dental Materials
  • Dentifrices
  • Sodium Bicarbonate
  • Glycine