What Is Tooth Enamel And How To Prevent Its Erosion
This thin outer tooth layer is designed to protect the much more vulnerable dentin and pulp layers against a damaging environment. Despite its obvious thinness, the strength of tooth enamel greatly exceeds the strength of the bones, which makes it the hardest tissue in our bodies.
However, unlike the bones, which can heal themselves after even the most serious injury, the tooth enamel is not capable of self-regeneration. That is why tooth fractures and breaks can be only physically repaired and why your tooth enamel calls for your special attention and care.
What Are the Functions of Tooth Enamel?
This tooth layer is needed to protect the more vulnerable parts of the teeth, not only against potentially painful temperature extremes, chemicals and acidic environments, but also against their daily wear.
Apart from protecting the vulnerable body of the tooth, the tooth enamel plays an important part in preserving the white tooth color.
Being naturally translucent, it cannot be the main indicator of the teeth shade. In fact, being healthy, the tooth enamel helps to keep stains from food, cigarettes, and even medicine away from the dentin layer of the teeth and thus helps to avoid dangerous staining of the inner teeth. Still, remember that tooth enamel protection just cannot be your loyal servant forever, unless you follow all the dental care recommendations.
Why Does Tooth Enamel Need Special Care?
By far the most common disorder associated with tooth enamel is tooth decay. It is the first tooth layer the harmful oral bacteria start to attack as soon as they get a favorable acidic breeding environment. Still, the breeding rate of the bacteria is usually successfully controlled by maintaining healthy oral hygiene and dietary routines.
However, even if you properly and thoroughly brush and floss your teeth, even the hardest tooth enamel can still crack or even chip. As I have already mentioned, this layer of the teeth is naturally incapable of self-regeneration. This happens because the tooth enamel has no living cells in it, which makes it impossible for our bodies to repair the damaged tooth.
Not only major teeth traumas and dental cavities, but also routine wear leads to gradual erosion of the tooth enamel. If not managed early, this process might soon lead to loss of the tooth enamel.
What Triggers Erosion of the Tooth Enamel?
Most commonly, tooth enamel loss is associated with poor oral hygiene and certain dietary habits.
First of all, these include acidic foods and especially beverages, such as soda drinks, citrus fruit juices, and even tea, which should be avoided to protect the tooth enamel.
The excessive consumption of pickles, tomatoes, and especially citrus fruits, is also particularly dangerous for your tooth enamel.
Apart from that, individuals who follow a diet which is high in sugars most commonly end up dealing with erosion of their tooth enamel.
In addition, many dental care providers stress that medical drugs such as antihistamines, or even common aspirin or vitamin C pills, are even more aggressive on the tooth enamel.
Also, there might be a number of underlying dental and even general health diseases behind the tooth enamel erosion. First of all, these are dry mouth and numerous gastrointestinal disorders, particularly acid reflux and bulimia, as well as similar diseases associated with frequent vomiting.
What is more, dental care experts observe a close link between their patients’ gene makeup and rapid tooth enamel erosion, since it might be triggered by inherited conditions. Also, never underestimate the negative influence of excessive intake of alcoholic beverages on the condition of the tooth enamel.
Last but not least, the natural wear of tooth enamel and its increased stress, not to mention the harmful environmental conditions, are also negatively reflected in the condition of the outer teeth layer. Many people brush their teeth with a stiff bristled toothbrush, thinking that their teeth get cleaned better with harder bristles.
However, they are mistaken as stiff bristles and the associated hard brushing only end up wearing away your tooth enamel. It’s important you brush your teeth properly, as too much plaque is very bad for your teeth, but hard bristles and hard brushing do more harm than good.
How Can I Tell That My Tooth Enamel Starts to Erode?
The first warning sign of tooth enamel erosion you should get concerned with is sensitivity of the teeth, which gets increasingly painful and even intolerable in the late stages of tooth enamel erosion.
Secondly, this dental problem is commonly associated with discoloration of the teeth as a result of exposure of the dentin layer. As the tooth enamel gets weaker, the teeth edges get irregular and rough, and chips and fractures become a frequent problem. Finally, you might notice chalky cupping on the surface of your teeth.
How Is Tooth Enamel Erosion Treated and Prevented?
To start with, the treatment of tooth enamel erosion starts with determining and managing its triggering source. If the problem is associated with any of the above-mentioned dental or general health diseases, these require urgent attention and treatment before treating the erosion of the tooth enamel.
In minor cases of tooth enamel erosion, your dental care provider is likely to prescribe fluoride toothpaste to protect and strengthen the tooth enamel; and probably, a desensitizing toothpaste to block the pain transmission from your tooth surface to the nerves.
More advanced cases of tooth enamel erosion might require professional in-office application of fluoride gel on the surface of the patient’s teeth to strengthen their enamel and reduce their sensitivity.
The most serious cases of tooth enamel loss commonly need a bonding procedure or even dental crown placement to protect and strengthen the affected teeth.
Finally, tips for prevention of tooth enamel erosion include maintenance of adequate oral hygiene and dietary habits, which include avoiding sugary or acidic foods and beverages. If you want to drink sugary and acidic drinks, drink using a straw as this reduces the amount of contact your teeth have with the liquids.
It helps if you follow a healthy diet, including foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals as these make your saliva mineral rich: include as many foods as possible that are rich in calcium, like milk, cheeses and other products for strong bones and teeth. Avoid snacking too much as constant exposure of your teeth to the acidic environment is hard on your tooth enamel.
Make it a point to drink a glass of water after snacking to help restore the pH levels of your teeth. Also, remember that management of fluoride intake, control of underlying health conditions and, especially, regular dental check-ups are the best keys to the health of your tooth enamel.
The ADA suggests brushing your teeth with a soft-bristled brush twice a day and replacing the worn-out toothbrush every three or four months.
Keeping your mouth moist helps, as saliva has lots of benefits on your teeth. In case you feel your mouth is dry, you can try chewing a sugar-free gum, like those containing xylitol, to stimulate more saliva.
As tooth enamel erosion is one of the side effects of heartburn and eating problems, you need to consult your doctor to treat these conditions and help prevent tooth erosion. Drink as much water as you can, as it’s helpful at washing away all those harmful acids and food remnants in your teeth. If you go swimming, practice swimming with your mouth closed so that your teeth come in contact with minimal amounts of chlorinated water.