The Stephan Curve revisited

Odontology. 2013 Jan;101(1):2-8. doi: 10.1007/s10266-012-0092-z. Epub 2012 Dec 6.


The Stephan Curve has played a dominant role in caries research over the past several decades. What is so remarkable about the Stephan Curve is the plethora of interactions it illustrates and yet acid production remains the dominant focus. Using sophisticated technology, it is possible to measure pH changes in plaque; however, these observations may carry a false sense of accuracy. Recent observations have shown that there may be multiple pH values within the plaque matrix, thus emphasizing the importance of the milieu within which acid is formed. Although acid production is indeed the immediate proximate cause of tooth dissolution, the influence of alkali production within plaque has received relative scant attention. Excessive reliance on Stephan Curve leads to describing foods as "safe" if they do not lower the pH below the so-called "critical pH" at which point it is postulated enamel dissolves. Acid production is just one of many biological processes that occur within plaque when exposed to sugar. Exploration of methods to enhance alkali production could produce rich research dividends.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acids / adverse effects
  • Acids / metabolism*
  • Alkalies / metabolism
  • Dental Caries / etiology
  • Dental Caries / metabolism*
  • Dental Enamel / drug effects*
  • Dental Plaque / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Tooth Wear / etiology


  • Acids
  • Alkalies