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We tested the hypothesis that high-calcium medium given prior to or immediately after exposure to fluoride (F) reduces the negative effects of F on secretory amelogenesis. Hamster molar tooth germs were grown in organ culture in media with different calcium levels. Deposition of enamel matrix and matrix mineralization were monitored by incorporation of [3H]proline and uptake of 45Ca and acid-soluble 32PO4. Ameloblast structure and the occurrence of a fluorotic enamel matrix were examined by light and electron microscopy. A preculture of explants in high-calcium medium partially prevented the formation of fluorotic (non-mineralizing) enamel matrix, increased matrix secretion but could not prevent F-induced hypermineralization of the pre-exposure enamel. High-calcium medium, applied after F insult, accelerated the recovery of fluorotic matrix, improved ameloblast structure, enhanced amelogenin secretion, and increased enamel thickness. The data indicate that it might be the balance between the amount of mineral deposition and that of matrix secretion which is critical for the mineralization of newly secreted enamel. Exposure to F disturbs this balance by enhancing mineralization of the pre-exposure enamel, probably generating an excess of protons. High calcium may protect against F exposure by enhancing amelogenin secretion into the enamel space, thereby increasing the local buffering capacity at the mineralization front.