When people think about the health of their mouth, they will typically consider their teeth in terms of cavities and their gums in terms of gum disease. They may only pay attention to the most visible symptoms, such as whether or not their gums bleed during brushing. However, there are many other factors to consider, from the presence (or lack) of harmful bacteria in the mouth to the durability of the enamel on your teeth.
The strength of your enamel has a significant impact on your overall oral health and can affect the longevity of your teeth. When considering how you can optimize and protect your long-term oral health, enamel preservation should be at the forefront of your dental care approach.
What Is Enamel and What Purpose Does It Serve?
Simply put, enamel is the protective outer layer of the tooth. While it is the hardest tissue in the human body, it is also very thin. The hardened outer surface helps protect the tooth from damage incurred by chewing, biting, consuming acidic foods and beverages, and other wear. When enamel is healthy, it also works to protect the teeth from exposure, including variations in temperature. However, enamel is translucent, meaning you can see through it. This can make it difficult for most people to determine whether their enamel is damaged or eroded.
What Is Enamel Erosion?
Enamel erosion is the process by which the enamel on your teeth is degraded, worn down, damaged, and otherwise compromised over time. Enamel is not living tissue, so it cannot be repaired when it is damaged, unlike bones and other living tissues. Enamel erosion is most often associated with the consumption of acidic items, which can wear away the enamel coating on your teeth.
Examples of highly acidic foods and beverages include soft drinks, fruit juices, coffee, and alcohol. Enamel can also be degraded and eroded by regular exposure to stomach acid via vomiting, making enamel erosion a particular concern for those struggling with alcoholism or eating disorders.
What Causes Enamel Erosion?
In addition to being associated with highly acidic foods and drinks and medical conditions that increase contact with stomach acid, enamel erosion can be caused by many factors. One major factor is genetics. Some people naturally have stronger enamel and better oral health, while others’ body chemistry may make them more prone to tooth decay.
Additionally, those who struggle with minimal saliva production or who chew tobacco may experience compromised enamel health. Some acidic medications, such as aspirin, can also contribute to enamel erosion. Tooth grinding can also lead to worn-down surfaces.
Signs of Enamel Erosion?
So, how can you tell if your diet, lifestyle, or genetics are negatively affecting your enamel health? If your teeth are discolored, this could be caused by stains from food or drinks… or it could be result of thinning enamel exposing the tooth underneath. If you are developing painful sensitivity to hot, cold, or sugary foods, if the edges of your teeth are prone to chipping or cracking, or if indentations appear on the surface of your teeth, there’s a good chance your enamel is becoming eroded.
Without taking proactive measures such as an improved diet and better oral health practices, your teeth could become damaged.
How to Prevent or Minimize Enamel Erosion Between Dentist Visits
When you aren’t able to brush your teeth after a meal or sugary drink, chewing a stick of gum can kickstart saliva production, thereby diluting acids in the mouth and reducing the impact on your enamel. Use a straw when sipping acidic or sugary drinks to protect your teeth. Drink more water throughout the day, and consider opting for toothpaste that contains fluoride.
Plaque buildup can also result in enamel erosion. Some plaque-forming bacteria can convert starches into acids. Left unchecked, these bacteria will degrade adjacent enamel and lead to unsightly pitting.
How Your Dentist Can Help
In addition to providing advice about improving your diet to reduce damage and removing built-up plaque during cleaning appointments, your dentist may recommend tooth bonding to further protect your teeth. Contact us today to ensure your enamel is in top shape and help us preserve your oral health!