The Importance of Protecting Tooth Enamel
If you have ever wondered how your teeth can withstand all of the munching, crunching, and chewing you subject them to on a daily basis, the reason is that your teeth are covered in the strongest substance produced by the body, enamel. A semi-translucent shell, enamel covers and protects the delicate dentin, which contains a tooth’s blood vessels and nerves. Enamel also protects your teeth from the corrosive effects of harm chemicals and acid.
Even though tooth enamel has remarkable resiliency, it can still be damaged through neglect or by practicing too many bad habits. Without the protection provided by tooth enamel, the pulp can become infected and inflamed, leading to tooth sensitivity and decay. To ensure your teeth remain healthy and strong, it’s important that you keep the enamel of your teeth in good condition.
Causes of Enamel Erosion
A variety of factors can contribute to enamel erosion, including:
- Drinking an excessive number of sugary soft drinks or fruit drinks. Harmful bacteria in the mouth that damages tooth enamel thrive off of the consumption of sugar. The more sugar you drink, the more damage this bacteria does to your enamel.
- Eating a lot of highly acidic foods, such as lemons, tomatoes, pineapple, and oranges. The acids these foods contain can erode way tooth enamel.
- Suffering from dry mouth or low saliva flow. Saliva acts as the mouth’s natural defense against harmful bacteria that produce acids that eat away at tooth enamel. Without saliva to act as a neutralizing agent, these acids can remain on teeth for hours eating away at enamel until the next time you brush or rinse your mouth.
- Acid reflux or heartburn. Both conditions cause stomach acids to rise up into the mouth, where the acids can damage tooth enamel.
- Alcoholism, bulimia, binge drinking, or any other activity that routinely causes vomiting.
- Overly aggressive brushing of your teeth or using a brush that contains hard, inflexible bristles. Brushing too hard can wear away tooth enamel.
- Bruxism. More commonly referred to as teeth grinding, bruxism is an unconscious habit that results in the grinding down of tooth enamel.
- Practicing poor oral hygiene. If you fail to brush and floss daily, harmful bacteria in the mouth known as plaque can begin to buildup, eventually leading to tooth decay or gum disease.
Symptom of Enamel Erosion
When the enamel on your teeth begin to wear away, your teeth become more susceptible to cavities and decay, which could lead to such symptoms as:
- Sensitivity or pain when consuming hot, cold, sweet, and even sour foods or drinks.
- Irregular, rough edges on teeth, which can also become chipped or cracked when enamel is lost.
- Enamel erosion causes demineralization of tooth enamel in areas that appear spotty or shinny when compared to the rest of the tooth.
- Yellow or discolored teeth.
- The formation of dents or cupping on the surface of the teeth.
If you notice any of these symptoms of enamel erosion, you need to schedule an appointment with a dentist. The longer enamel erosion goes untreated, the more long-term damage the condition can cause.
Protecting Tooth Enamel
The best way to protect the health of your teeth’s enamel is by practicing quality oral hygiene. Here are a few tips that can help:
- Cut down on the number and amount of acidic food and drinks, such as carbonated drinks and citrus fruits, you consume daily. Carbonated soda is especially bad for the health of tooth enamel, doing even more damage than battery acid. When you do enjoy these types of items, thoroughly rinse your mouth with water immediately after finishing.
- Drink fruit juice and soda through a straw instead of directly from the bottle or glass. By using a straw, you help these types of liquids bypass your teeth.
- After enjoying a meal full of acidic foods, try eating a piece of cheese or drinking a glass of milk to offset the acid.
- Chew gum following every meal. Chewing gum helps to increase saliva flow in the mouth, which washes away harmful plaque acids and lingering food particles from your teeth. The American Dental Association recommends chewing gum that doesn’t contain sugar after meals as a way of preventing tooth decay.
- Wait at least one hour after consuming acidic foods or drinks before brushing your teeth. Acidic foods weaken tooth enamel, which can be further damaged by brushing until given the chance to recover.
- Use a toothpaste and mouthwash that contains fluoride, which can help to strengthen tooth enamel.
- Make sure you brush and floss daily. Without practicing quality oral health, you can’t protect your teeth’s enamel from harmful bacteria.
A freelance writer, Timothy Lemke blogs about oral health care for Dr. Donald Lanahan, a dentist in Grants Pass at Grants Pass Family Dental.