Enamel and dentin are susceptible to extrinsic and intrinsic stains. The purposes of this study were to determine the penetration pattern of Rhodamine B and dextran-conjugated Rhodamine B into the enamel and dentin as observed by confocal laser microscopy and to relate it to the penetration pattern of hydrogen peroxide commonly used as an active ingredient in tooth-whitening agents and high-molecular-weight staining molecules. Eighteen recently extracted human maxillary anterior teeth were used. Teeth were cleaned and painted with nail varnish except for the crown area above the cemento-enamel junction (CEJ). The painted teeth were then immersed in Rhodamine B and dextran-conjugated Rhodamine B (70 000 MW) for 4, 7, 10 and 15 days. Teeth were sliced to 3 mm thickness in transverse plane and mounted on a glass slide just prior to observation with confocal laser microscopy. Rhodamine B and dextran-conjugated Rhodamine B readily penetrated into the enamel and dentin when exposed for 4 and 7 days, respectively. Rhodamine B penetrated along the interprismatic spaces of the enamel into the dentin. The penetration was accentuated in sections with existing crack lines in the enamel. Rhodamine B was readily absorbed into the dentinal tubules at the dentino-enamel junction and continued to penetrate through the dentin via the dentinal tubules into the pre-dentin. Within the limitations of this study, it is concluded that Rhodamine B and dextran-conjugated Rhodamine B when applied to the external surface of the tooth readily penetrate into the enamel and dentin via the interprismatic spaces in the enamel and dentinal tubules in the dentin, suggesting that stain molecules and bleaching agents possibly exhibit similar penetration pathways.
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