Enamel is the hard outer layer of the teeth that helps protect the teeth from damage and decay. Enamel is even stronger than bone, but can be damaged and worn down by acid and abrasion. It is important to monitor enamel wear because enamel does not contain living cells and therefore cannot regrow or restore itself. Symptoms of enamel wear to watch out for include the following.
Signs of Tooth Enamel Erosion
- Tooth sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods
- Yellow discolouration
- Indentations on the teeth or increased susceptibility to cracks and chips
- Increased tooth decay or more frequent cavities
As enamel erodes, the teeth become more sensitive and appear less white due to the exposure of dentin. Since bacteria can enter more easily, the teeth also become more susceptible to decay and cavities.
What Causes Enamel Erosion?
When sugar mixes with plaque on the teeth a mild acid is formed that can soften tooth enamel. The more sugar is consumed, and the more plaque is left on the teeth, the higher the chances of enamel erosion. The following factors contribute to enamel erosion.
- Sugary drinks like juice and pop, especially those high in acid
- High consumption of sugar in the diet
- Infrequent or insufficient brushing and flossing
- Dry mouth (less saliva to naturally rinse the mouth)
- Digestive problems such as acid reflux
- Some medications such as antihistamines and aspirin
- Physical wear and tear, such as aggressive brushing, grinding teeth, or biting hard objects
- Corrosion due to frequent vomiting
How to Prevent Enamel Erosion
The best way to avoid enamel erosion is to maintain a healthy diet and a good oral health care routine. Saliva also plays an important role in preventing enamel wear because it helps maintain healthy tissues, dilutes sugar and acid, and rinses bacteria from the mouth. While some foods increase enamel erosion, other foods like cheese and milk help protect the teeth. Cheese and milk contain high amounts of calcium and other minerals which can help strengthen enamel that has become weaker (if hasn’t been lost already). Tips to maintain healthy teeth include:
- Brushing and flossing daily
- Reducing high acid (e.g. citrus) and sugary foods and drinks
- Rinsing the mouth after eating
- Choosing water instead of sweetened beverages
- Incorporating dairy products into your diet
- Avoiding frequent snacking
- Chewing gum to increase saliva production
- Using a fluoridated toothpaste to strengthen the teeth (in adults)
- Visiting your dentist for regular check ups
Treatment for Tooth Enamel Erosion
The treatment for tooth enamel erosion depends on the severity of the damage. Since there is no way for the teeth to naturally regrow enamel, corrective treatments include:
- Applying a tooth-coloured resin to harden and protect the teeth
- Fitting the damaged tooth with a crown to cover the tooth and prevent further damage
- Filling cavities caused by enamel erosion and improving home care routines
The best way to maintain strong teeth is to protect your teeth’s natural enamel. Once the enamel starts to wear off, it difficult to try to strengthen it. Since enamel doesn’t grow back, it’s important to maintain the enamel you have. Visit your family dentist for more information if you have questions or concerns about the health of your teeth.