Considering the stress and strain you place on your teeth daily, you’d think that eventually, they would eventually wear down to tiny stubs. However, the strongest substance produced by the body, enamel, protects your teeth from the daily wear and tear caused by biting, gnashing, and chewing, and from the hot and cold temperatures of consuming foods and drinks. Enamel also helps to protect your teeth from the damaging acids and chemicals we consume daily.
Underneath your teeth’s enamel lays a soft, sensitive core called the dentin. When your tooth enamel begins to erode or wear away, the dentin becomes exposed. Once the dentin in your teeth loses the protection provide by enamel, bacteria can begin to infect a tooth causing inflammation to occur, which can lead to gum disease and tooth loss. The dentin of a tooth also contains thousands of tiny tubules that lead directly into the nerve center of a tooth. Consuming hot, cold, sweet, or even sour foods can irritate these tubules, causing tooth sensitivity and you to experience sudden, sharp pangs of pain.
Keeping the enamel of your teeth healthy and strong is the best way to ensure you maintain your oral health.
Causes of Enamel Erosion
A variety of factors can lead to the loss of tooth enamel, including:
- Consuming an excessive number of fruit drinks and soft drinks, coupled with practicing poor oral hygiene. Harmful bacteria that grow in the mouth thrive on the sugar these types of beverages contain and produce damaging acids that can erode tooth enamel.
- Consuming excessive amounts of citrus or sour foods. Foods high in acidity can also erode tooth enamel.
- Suffering from dry mouth or low saliva flow. Saliva washes away lingering food particles after eating and helps to neutralize damaging acids created by bacteria.
- Acid reflux or heartburn. When you suffer from acid reflux, the acid from your stomach comes up into the mouth where it can erode enamel.
- Binge drinking, alcoholism, or bulimia. Any activity that can cause frequent vomiting brings stomach acid into contact with your teeth.
- Brushing your teeth too aggressively or frequent tooth grinding can cause enamel erosion.
The Symptoms of Tooth Enamel Erosion
As previously mentioned, when tooth enamel erodes, your teeth become more vulnerable to decay and the formation of cavities, which may lead to such symptoms as:
- Tooth sensitivity or tooth pain when consuming sweet, sour, hot, or cold foods and drinks.
- Your teeth can become chipped or cracked after losing enamel, which can lead to rough, irregular edges.
- Shiny, smooth surfaces may appear on your teeth due to mineral loss caused by enamel erosion.
- Tooth discoloration
- Dents, groves, or cups may begin to appear on the chewing or biting surfaces of your teeth.
How to Protect Tooth Enamel from Erosion
By practicing quality oral hygiene at home, and by scheduling regular appointments with a dentist, you can help to prevent the majority of enamel erosion. You can further protect the health of your teeth by keeping these tips in mind.
- Reduce the number of acidic foods and drinks you consume daily, especially carbonated beverages such as soft drinks and fruit drinks.
- Rinse your mouth thoroughly with water following the consumption of highly acidic foods or drinks.
- When you do drink sodas or fruit drinks, use a straw instead of drinking the beverages directly from the can, bottle, or glass. By drinking through a straw, the liquids will bypass your front teeth, which receive the most damage from these types of beverages.
- After eating highly acidic foods, finish your meal with a slice of cheese to neutralize the acids.
- Chew gum, preferably sugar-free, following every meal. Chewing gum increases the amount of saliva produced by your mouth, which helps to remove lingering food particles and neutralize harmful acids.
- Increase the amount of water you drink daily if you suffer from dry mouth or low saliva production.
- Wait for at least one hour after consuming acidic foods or drinks before brushing. Acid leaves your enamel vulnerable and prone to erosion during brushing.
- Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and avoid aggressively brushing.