The quality of dental care and modern achievements in dental science depend strongly on understanding the properties of teeth and the basic principles and mechanisms involved in their interaction with surrounding media. Erosion is a disorder to which such properties as structural features of tooth, physiological properties of saliva, and extrinsic and intrinsic acidic sources and habits contribute, and all must be carefully considered. The degree of saturation in the surrounding solution, which is determined by pH and calcium and phosphate concentrations, is the driving force for dissolution of dental hard tissue. In relation to caries, with the calcium and phosphate concentrations in plaque fluid, the 'critical pH' below which enamel dissolves is about 5.5. For erosion, the critical pH is lower in products (e.g. yoghurt) containing more calcium and phosphate than plaque fluid and higher when the concentrations are lower. Dental erosion starts by initial softening of the enamel surface followed by loss of volume with a softened layer persisting at the surface of the remaining tissue. Dentine erosion is not clearly understood, so further in vivo studies, including histopathological aspects, are needed. Clinical reports show that exposure to acids combined with an insufficient salivary flow rate results in enhanced dissolution. The effects of these and other interactions result in a permanent ion/substance exchange and reorganisation within the tooth material or at its interface, thus altering its strength and structure. The rate and severity of erosion are determined by the susceptibility of the dental tissues towards dissolution. Because enamel contains less soluble mineral than dentine, it tends to erode more slowly. The chemical mechanisms of erosion are also summarised in this review. Special attention is given to the microscopic and macroscopic histopathology of erosion.