The enamel on your natural teeth is a thin, translucent outer covering that works like armor to protect teeth from daily activities including biting, crunching, grinding, and chewing. It protects your teeth from invading bacteria that can lead to plaque and tartar. Despite its thinness, enamel is the hardest tissue in your body and covers the part of your tooth visible outside the gums, called the crown. When your enamel wears away (erodes), chips, cracks, or weakens, your teeth are more vulnerable to structural damage and cavities. While your body is capable of healing broken bones, it can’t repair chipped or cracked enamel because enamel doesn’t contain living cells.
Causes of enamel erosion
It’s not possible to regrow enamel that’s suffered erosion from acids wearing it away. The causes of enamel erosion include:
- Dry mouth
- Diet high in starches and sugars
- Acid reflux disease
- Friction, stress, abrasion, wear
Plaque can also cause enamel erosion because the bacteria inside it changes food starches to acids that eat away at the healthy minerals in your teeth enamel. This wears the enamel down and creates pits that can grow larger and weaken the tooth.
Indications of enamel erosion
If you’re concerned about the health of your tooth enamel, certain signs indicate a potential problem. These signs include but aren’t limited to:
- Crack and chips
- Sensitivity to foods and drinks
- Indentations on teeth surface
- Severe, painful sensitivity in later stages
Even if you don’t feel them at first, cavities can also result from eroded enamel because teeth are more vulnerable to decay. Once the decay goes into the hard enamel, it can get into the main part of the tooth. If a cavity goes untreated, it affects the tiny nerve fibers in the tooth, which can result in an infection or abscess.
Lost tooth enamel won’t grow back, so it’s important to prevent enamel loss, protect the remaining enamel, and strengthen your teeth to resist bacteria. Along with practicing great oral hygiene, including brushing twice daily, flossing, and seeing your dentist regularly for cleaning and checkups, there are other ways to protect your tooth enamel.
- Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste
- Drink more water to compensate for dry mouth or reduced saliva
- Avoid acidic foods and drinks like soda and citrus fruits, or drink them with a straw
- Rinse your mouth and brush your teeth after snacking, or snack on foods that “clean” your teeth as you chew, like carrots and celery
- Chew sugar-free gum to increase saliva production and strengthen teeth
- Ask your dentist about a fluoride mouthwash and sealants
Treating the loss of tooth enamel depends on the cause and severity. Dental bonding can protect a tooth with minor enamel loss, but a crown to cover the tooth works better for significant enamel loss and can help protect against further decay.
Scheduling and keeping your regular cleaning appointments is one of the best ways to protect enamel because the dentist removes plaque accumulation and can check for weakened or worn enamel. If you start noticing that your teeth look more transparent, contact Chianese Dental to set up an appointment, as this is a sign of enamel loss.