The effects of new experimental sports drinks on dental enamel were studied in vitro using bovine tooth specimens. Profilometric analysis was used to measure the loss of tooth material after immersion of the specimens in the drinks. Thereafter the specimens' surface hardness was measured and scanning electron microphotographs were taken. In addition, 13 commercial sports drinks and experimental drinks containing either citric acid or malic acid were tested for their capacity to dissolve hydroxyapatite in vitro. The erosive effect increased markedly with decreasing pH. The citric acid containing drinks were more erosive than malic acid containing drinks. No erosion was observed with the malic acid containing drink (pH 5.90) but the drink of similar composition containing citric acid caused an erosion 1.3 +/- 1.1 microns deep and a commercial citric acid containing drink caused a lesion 12.3 +/- 4.5 microns deep after 120 min immersion. Softening of enamel was greater in specimens immersed in citric acid than in those immersed in malic acid containing drink. The in vitro hydroxyapatite dissolving effect of the commercial sports drink samples studied (all having a pH under 4.22) was markedly greater (0.48-4.38 mmol/l) than that of the malic acid containing experimental drink (pH 5.50, Ca++ concentration in the supernatant 0.19 mmol/l) and of the similar citric acid containing drink (0.35 mmol/l). The hydroxyapatite dissolving effect of both drinks started to be marked at a pH level of about 5.0 but increased thereafter exponentially with decreasing pH. At pH levels above 4.0 the hydroxyapatite dissolving effect of citric acid containing drinks was greater than that of malic acid containing drinks.