Enamel Erosion – How to Protect your Enamel
Your Enamel What it is and Why it Matters
What is tooth enamel?
Enamel is the thin outer covering of the tooth that covers the part of the tooth, visible outside of the gums. Enamel covers the crown which is the part of the tooth that’s visible outside of the gums.
Why is tooth enamel important?
Enamel helps protect your teeth from daily use such as chewing, biting, crunching, and grinding. This tough shell is the hardest tissue in the human body even tougher than bone and acts as the first line of defense in protecting teeth from exposure to chemicals and acids from our body and foods. This constant exposure can cause wear and enamel can erode or chip and crack. Enamel also insulates the teeth from potentially painful temperatures and chemicals.
What is enamel erosion?
Tooth erosion occurs when excess acid wears away the tooth enamel. Though the calcium that occurs naturally in saliva helps neutralize the acids in the foods and beverages you consume to protect tooth enamel from erosion, constant exposure to acidic food and drinks can cause wear over time. (For the best/worst beverages for teeth visit our post here, or for a list of the worst foods visit this post from the American Dental Association). It’s important to protect enamel from this wear because enamel has no living cells and unlike a broken bone, the body cannot repair chipped or cracked enamel.
What causes enamel erosion?
There are many causes of erosion though mostly it comes down to acid levels in the mouth through exposure to acids or physical damage to the enamel through teeth grinding. The most likely culprits according to Web MD include:
- Excessive soft drink consumption (these drinks have high levels of phosphoric and citric acids)
- Fruit drinks (some acids in fruit drinks are more erosive than battery acid!)
- Dry mouth or low salivary flow (xerostomia)- saliva protects enamel by coating the teeth in protective minerals such as calcium, diluting acids, removing waste, and boosting protective substances that help fight mouth bacteria and disease.
- Diet (high in sugar and starches and low in vitamin rich protective foods)
- Acid reflux disease (GERD)
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Medications-certain prescription medications such as antidepressants can cause dry mouth. Over the counter medication such as aspirin and antihistamines also contribute to this condition.
- Genetics (inherited conditions)
- Environmental factors (friction, wear and tear, stress, and corrosion through teeth grinding, and brushing too hard with abrasive substances)
- Bulimia- exposure to the acids in vomit can wear away enamel
Did you know?
Your body produces about a quart of saliva every day, which comes out to about 10,000 gallons over a lifetime! Not only does saliva help prevent enamel erosion and tooth decay by washing away acids it also contains enzymes to help us digest our food. This is why it’s so important to address dry mouth and discover what’s causing the condition if you have it.
How do I know if I have worn tooth enamel?
If you are experiencing increased sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures you may have enamel erosion. This is because the enamel acts as a protective layer covering the lower layer of teeth known as the dentin connected to nerves. If your teeth are see-through at the edges and are thin, they you probably have enamel erosion.
Common signs/symptoms of tooth enamel erosion include:
- Increased sensitivity to taste, textures, and temperature
- Cracks and chips
- Discolouration-enamel wear exposes dentin which is yellow
- Indentations known as cups on the surface of your teeth
Can you build tooth enamel?
Unfortunately, our tooth enamel is a lot like our childhood innocence, once it is lost it is gone forever. If you already have erosion you can prevent it from worsening by following the tips below.
How can you protect tooth enamel from wear?
According to the American Dental Association (ADA) you can protect enamel from erosion by:
- Avoiding diet high in acidic foods/drinks and include vitamin rich foods high in calcium
- Rinsing your mouth with water after consuming an acidic food or beverage to limit the exposure to the enamel and using a straw
- Waiting an hour to brush after consuming something acidic
- Using an enamel strengthening toothpaste to re-mineralize teeth to help protect enamel from further wear
- Practising good oral hygiene
- Preventing dry mouth-chewing sugar free gum, drinking water, and making sure your medications aren’t contributing to the condition
What foods protect enamel?
Foods containing calcium such as cheese, almonds and leafy greens and foods high in phosphorous such as meat, eggs and fish, can help keep tooth enamel strong and healthy, according to the American Dental Association.
How do dentists fix enamel erosion?
If you have extensive enamel erosion and are concerned make an appointment to discuss treatment options. Some ways dentists can treat or prevent tooth enamel erosion include:
- Bonding- A tooth-colored material known as resin is applied to stained or damaged teeth. The resin can cover up any discolorations and protect your tooth. You may want to consider tooth bonding if enamel erosion has caused discolorations on your front teeth.
- Veneers- Adding a veneer or crown to damaged teeth can improve the appearance of the tooth and prevent further decay.
Of course, the best treatment is prevention. Practise good oral hygiene and follow the tips in this post to prevent enamel erosion. If you have enamel wear and are concerned don’t hesitate to contact our office to discuss treatment options.