Tooth Enamel: Erosion and Restoration
Most people are aware of the dangers of poor oral hygiene: bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease. But even if you’re brushing and flossing religiously, you could still be damaging your teeth. Read on to find out about enamel erosion, why it matters, and what you can do about it.
What is Tooth Enamel
Your teeth are beautifully constructed to chew food and stand up to a lifetime of use. Inside each tooth is a soft core of living tissue, called dentin, and tucked deep inside that is the tender nerve. To protect these vulnerable structures is a shell of enamel. It’s the hardest tissue in your body, even stronger than bone, and it encases the inner, living structures to protect them.
Unlike the inside of the tooth, the enamel isn’t a living tissue. Your body assembled this remarkable structure before the tooth ever peeked out of your gum line. Once it’s damaged, there’s no way for your body to repair it. If the enamel gets chipped or broken, it will stay that way until it’s repaired by a dentist. One common form of enamel damage is erosion.
The Causes of Enamel Erosion
As strong as enamel is, it can be worn down. Physical or chemical abrasives will remove minuscule amounts over time, eventually affecting the integrity of the whole tooth.
- Acidic drinks, such as fruit drinks or soda.
- Dry mouth. Saliva neutralizes acids in the mouth and washes away food particles that can harbor the buildup of bacteria.
- Eating lots of sugar and starches, which encourages the growth of bacteria that produces decaying acids.
- Acid reflux disease. Heartburn doesn’t just cause pain in your esophagus. It can even reach your mouth, and the powerful acid that’s supposed to digest your food is strong enough to eat into tooth enamel.
- Medications, such as aspirin or antihistamines
- Grinding your teeth
- Abrasive friction caused by brushing too hard or biting down on objects that are too hard for your teeth, such as chewing on pens or fingernails
- Chewing tobacco
How to Prevent Enamel Erosion
If you’re brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist regularly, congratulations! You’ve already taken the first important steps to protect your enamel. Here’s what else you can do.
- Avoid acidic food and drink, such as soda, citric fruits, and juices. If you do indulge, rinse your mouth with clear water to remove the acid as soon as possible. Using a straw when you drink anything acidic will help keep it away from your teeth.
- Avoid excessive snacking of sugary or starchy foods. The acid level in the mouth is elevated for a few hours after eating these foods, so avoid them unless you can rinse your mouth or brush your teeth.
- Chewing sugar-free gum between meals will boost saliva production, which will help neutralize acid and strengthen teeth. Gum with xylitol is especially helpful.
- Use toothpaste with fluoride, which is still the gold standard for strengthening teeth.
- Check with your dentist to see if sealants can help protect your teeth.
Your enamel works hard to protect your teeth, so return the favor by doing what you can to keep it strong. At Dr. Evans’ office in Boulder, we would love to help you take care of your beautiful smile! Contact us today for an appointment.