Did you know that tooth enamel is harder than bone and even steel? Tooth enamel is defined as the hard, outer layer of your teeth that serves to protect against tooth decay. Considering all of the foods that humans enjoy eating— such as apples, nuts, chips, and meat— tooth enamel is there to protect your teeth from damage and ensure they stay healthy throughout the process. With that being said, daily practices and habits can leave your enamel in a bind when it comes to protection. Although tooth enamel is strong, it still needs a lot of support to fight against enamel erosion.
What is enamel erosion and what causes it?
Enamel erosion occurs when tooth enamel is destroyed by leftover acids on the surface of teeth. Although tooth enamel is the hardest and strongest substance in your body, it gradually erodes over time for different reasons, leaving your teeth susceptible to long-term side effects.
As family dental care grows in importance for children, teens, and adults, it’s important to note that once your enamel is gone, it’s gone for good. It isn’t like braces, veneers, or even crowns where you can merely google “affordable dentist near me,” get a consult, and receive the service. Enamel is not a quick fix, and cannot be medically administered. Due to this, it’s important to understand how and why erosion occurs, as well as some preventive measures that you and your children can take early on in order to keep your teeth’s enamel strong and healthy.
The top threats of enamel erosion include:
- Generic acid consumption – One of the main causes of enamel erosion is the acids found in foods and beverages that you consume. Soft drinks, fruit juices, and citrus fruits are just a few of the primary culprits. The sugar in these foods and beverages combines with bacteria in your mouth to form acid, which attacks your teeth and weakens tooth enamel.
- Dry mouth – Also referred to as xerostomia, dry mouth depletes your teeth of healthy saliva, which is a natural teeth cleaner. Saliva also contains agents that help combat the bacteria that forms cavities. With that being said, it’s no wonder that a lack of saliva can cause enamel erosion. If acid is left on your teeth as a result of dry mouth, enamel erosion can occur.
- Poor oral health habits – As expected, enamel erosion can be caused by substandard oral habits. This can range from chewing ice to not brushing and flossing consistently. These bad habits are often learned at an early age, so it’s best to ensure that your child is familiar with a proper dental routine.
- Genetics – Sometimes, the luck of the draw just isn’t in your favor. Enamel erosion may be common in your family, and no matter how many tips or tricks you follow to prevent enamel erosion, you can’t outrun it. This is completely normal, but continue to follow preventive measures of keeping your enamel strong such as those we’ll see below.
A few other threats include a poor diet, gastrointestinal problems, certain medications, and general environmental factors. Your local family dentist or your children’s dentist will alert you if they notice a high loss of tooth enamel, but beware of these side effects that can come with enamel erosion:
- Tooth sensitivity – You may be more sensitive to hot or cold foods as a result of enamel erosion.
- Enamel discoloration – Your teeth may appear more yellow as enamel erodes, exposing the dentin underneath.
- Cracks – Once your tooth’s enamel starts to erode, it is highly possible that you develop small cracks along the chewing surface of your teeth.
Should you or your child experience any of these side effects, notify your local dentist immediately.
How can you prevent enamel erosion?
There are multiple ways that you can limit you and your children’s teeth to tooth erosion:
- Avoid brushing your teeth right after eating. Instead, rinse your mouth with water, especially if you’ve eaten something acidic.
- Cut down on highly acidic foods and beverages. Consume food and liquids that strengthen your teeth, such as milk, cheese, and fish. Sources of calcium and phosphorus are a plus for your enamel as they keep it healthy and strong.
- Chew sugar-free gum. Gum helps in producing more saliva, so you’ll be defending against dry mouth.
- Ensure that your dental routine is up-to-par. Brush at least twice a day and floss once a day to keep your teeth healthy. Also, buy a toothpaste that contains fluoride; your local dentist can recommend a desired brand.
All in all, sticking to a good oral health routine, as well as limiting acidic foods, is the best way to keep your teeth defended against enamel erosion. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above, or if you believe you are experiencing an abnormal loss of enamel, then contact us today so that we can find and treat the source of your problem.