Your tooth’s enamel is the hardest body tissue in your entire body. While the body can do some pretty amazing things such as grow new skin cells, repair a large cuts, repair broken bones and much much more. Your body cannot repair or regrow you tooth’s enamel.
This is why it is extremely important that you take the absolute best care of your enamel possible.
In this article, we will discuss what enamel is, the importance or your tooth’s enamel, how to protect and keep your enamel in immaculate shape, how you can lose your enamel, the consequences of losing your tooth’s enamel, and more.
The bottom line is that if you want to keep that perfect, white smile, then you must take good care of your enamel.
What is Enamel?
As we mentioned above, your tooth’s enamel is the hardest tissue in your body. Enamel is so hard that it is even harder than your bones. It is also the most mineralized tissue in your body. Enamel is the outter most layer on your teeth. This is the part of your teeth that is visible to everyone.
Enamel is made up of a variety of minerals with the most abundant mineral being hydroxyapatite. While it is possible to replenish and remineralize the minerals in your enamel, once you get a hole in your enamel, it is there for good unless you get dental work done. In other words, your body will not rebuild enamel.
Enamel can vary in color from person to person and in most cases is a light yellowish to grayish white color.
Under your tooth’s enamel is the next layer which is dentin, and then the pulp and so on. For purposes of this article, we are just going to focus on enamel, which is what you and everyone else can see.
The Importance of your Tooth’s Enamel and the Role it Plays
The purpose of enamel is to protect your teeth from a variety of things. Enamel protects your teeth from hard foods, it protects your from foods and beverages that are very hot or very cold, it protects your teeth from tooth decay, and it protects the inner layers of your teeth.
When you eat food, you have to chew on the food with your teeth. This chewing/chomping/breaking down process is all due to the enamel on your teeth. In order to be able to chew and break down food, this enamel must be very hard, otherwise you risk the chance of breaking your teeth and harming the inner layers of your teeth.
When eating or drinking something very hot or cold, your enamel makes this possible. Inside your teeth are tons of nerve endings. If you enamel was not there to protect these nerve endings from hot and cold food or beverages, then consuming them would be extremely painful and nearly impossible. This is because that hot or cold substance would have a direct path to the nerve endings inside your teeth.
If your tooth’s enamel was not there, your teeth would easily decay. Inside your mouth is a lot of acids and bacterias. In most cases your enamel can handle these until your brush and floss. However, if your enamel were not there, these acids and bacterias would get into the other layers of your teeth and quickly begin to decay your teeth.
As we mentioned, inside of your teeth are a bunch of nerve endings. The layer under your enamel is dentin, which contains tiny tubules that lead down into the pulp where these nerve endings are. If your enamel were not there to protect these inner layers, then everything that goes into your mouth would cause severe pain and sensitivity because it would have direct access to these nerve endings.
How to Protect your Tooth’s Enamel
The best way to keep your tooth’s enamel in the best condition possible is a daily oral hygiene routine.
This means that you need to brush your teeth at least 2 times a day. In addition, you also need to make sure you floss your teeth daily, whether you floss with string, with a floss pick, or use a water flossing product. Finally, you should use mouthwash daily as well.
Often times, we do not brush our teeth well enough or for a long enough period of time. Each time you brush your teeth, you need to make sure you brush them for at least 2 straight minutes.
On top of that, you want to make sure you clear your mouth of any harmful acids immediately after eating. If not, this acid will sit on your teeth and over time it can begin to weaken and eat away at your tooth’s enamel. If you eat foods high in sugar or high in acids, it is a good idea to rinse them down with water.
Another great idea is to follow those foods up with crunchy vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, or cauliflower. These vegetables actually do a good job at scraping that harmful acid off of your teeth, so it is not sitting on them until the next time your brush.
It is also a good idea to chew on sugar free gum throughout the day. This increases the amount of saliva in your mouth as well as can remove food particles from your teeth.
Water with fluoride in it helps strengthen the enamel in children, but this is not the case for adults. Adults can use special toothpastes that contain fluoride or use special topical treatments to strengthen their enamel.
How does your Tooth’s Enamel Erode
Let us first start off by saying, you do not want this to happen to you. First, we will talk about how your enamel becomes eroded, then we will talk about some of the consequences of having eroded enamel, and finally we will discuss your options if you have lost your enamel.
When your tooth’s enamel begins to erode, this is known as enamel decay.
Here is a look at the main reasons why your enamel decays:
Consuming excessive amounts of foods and beverages that contain high levels of acids
Foods that are high in acid can really do a number on your tooth’s enamel.
Foods such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, fish, grains, some dairy products, meats, high protein foods and more contain a high level of acid. When you consume this food in excess, the acid in these foods can begin to erode your enamel if you let this acid sit on your teeth for long periods of time. This is why it is a good idea to drink water after consuming foods high in acid.
The more often you consume these foods and the longer the acid sits on your teeth, the faster your enamel will erode.
Diets that contain high amounts of sugars and starches
Sugars is bad for your teeth, and eating a diet full of sugars and starches can really harm your enamel if you are not careful.
In side your mouth is bacteria. When you consume sugars, this bacteria uses that sugar to produce acids that eat away at your tooth’s enamel. Same with starches, the bacteria uses the sugars in the starches to produce this acid.
If you eat a diet that contains a lot of sugars and starches, you are allowing this process to happen more frequently, therefore putting your enamel at a high risk of becoming eroded. Again, it is a good idea to drink water with these foods and brush your teeth after-wards. This will prevent the bacteria in your mouth from turning those sugars into harmful acids.
Excessively dry mouth/low saliva flow
Saliva in your mouth plays a key role at preventing tooth decay. Saliva controls bacteria’s, fungi, and viruses in your mouth. Saliva also flushes and removes food particles and debris from your teeth after eating. If you have an excessively dry mouth, this is not possible. Not only will the bacteria in your mouth not be under control, your teeth will also not be flushed of tiny food particles that can eat away at your enamel.
As we mentioned above, it is a good idea to chew on some sugar free gum throughout the day. This will dramatically increase the amount of saliva in your mouth.
There is a look at some of the main causes of enamel erosion. A few other causes include bulimia, acid reflux, some medications, genetics, and environmental causes such as friction, physical wear, stress, and corrosion.
Consequences of Eroded Tooth Enamel
Now that you know why your tooth’s enamel erodes, lets take a look at some of the negative effects of it.
Tooth decay/cavities – once you enamel is eroded, this exposes the rest of the inner layers of your teeth. Your enamel protects these layers and without your enamel, these inner layers come under attack by the bacteria’s and acids in your mouth.
The result is tooth decay/cavities, and even the possibility of extraction.
Sensitivity – without your enamel, your teeth become extremely sensitive to food and beverages. Below your enamel is your tooth’s dentin. Below your dentin is the tooth’s pulp. It is in the pulp where all your nerve endings are.
Your dentin contain tiny tubules that lead into your tooth’s pulp. When your enamel is not there to protect your dentin, this allows food and beverages to travel through these tiny tubules and reach the nerve endings in your pulp. This causes extreme sensitivity and is very unpleasant to experience.
Discolored teeth – If your enamel becomes yellow or stained, you can use teeth whitening strips to whiten your enamel and regain a pearly white smile. However, if your enamel is eroded, then your dentin is exposed. Dentin is a yellowish color. While enamel can be whitened, dentin cannot be whitened. There are no strips, teeth whitening kits, or any other whitening products that will whiten your tooth’s dentin.
Instead, you will be left with yellowish, stained looking teeth.
Complete tooth loss – this is the absolute worse case scenario. If you lose your tooth’s enamel and continue with poor dental hygiene, then the possibility of complete loss of teeth becomes a reality.
If you notice sensitivity, it is best to check with your dentist to see if your enamel has worn away and come up with a plan of action.
What to do if you Lose your Tooth’s Enamel
There are a few options you have if your tooth’s enamel erodes. If your enamel is beginning to or is slightly eroded, then you can remineralize it in hopes of restoring your enamel. On top of that you can use special toothpaste that contains fluoride such as sensodyne.
On the other hand, if your enamel has completely eroded, then your options become a bit more expensive. The three main options for those with complete enamel erosion are crowns, veneers, or bonding.
A tooth crown is usually done when the erosion is extreme. This is the process of covering your tooth or teeth with a tooth shaped cap. This is like putting a new outter layer on your teeth to protect them and make them look good again.
A veneer is a tooth colored layer that is placed over the front of your teeth to improve appearance.
Dental bonding is similar to a veneer. It is a resin material that is placed on the tooth. A special light is then used to harden and bond this material to your tooth.
All three of the above solutions are viable for completely eroded enamel. If left untreated, you run the risk of completely losing your teeth, or having to deal with extreme sensitivity every time you eat or drink anything.
There you have it. Everything you need to know about your tooth’s enamel and enamel erosion. You now know why it is so important that you take great care of your teeth. Having a thorough dental hygiene routine that you follow daily can prevent your enamel from eroding. It is important that you follow that routine every day. On top of that, it is generally a good idea to drink plenty of water throughout the day.