The enamel or the outer layer of your teeth, is a layer that protects the inner layers of the teeth against any physical or chemical alteration. The enamel of a tooth is usually calcified and is very tough. Truth be told, it is one of the hardest tissues present in the human body- even stronger than the bones.
Enamel is the first defense mechanism for your precious pearls against multiple chemicals that they are possibly exposed to around the clock, through food and bodily fluids. As a consequence, it can be susceptible to eventual wear and tear. This process of eventual wear and tear is called enamel erosion.
Enamel erosion is known to lead to several symptoms like dental stains and sensitivity. Dental enamel can’t be regrown or regenerated. But you can prevent it from eroding and getting worse with proper dental treatment and by maintaining good oral health and dental hygiene regimen.
Enamel Erosion Symptoms
Signs and Symptoms of dental enamel erosion might vary. They often include:
- Increased sensitivity to taste, textures, and temperature
- Cracks and chips
- Indentations, also known as cups on the surface of your teeth
You might want to significant enamel erosion if you experience:
- High sensitivity when exposed to cold, hot, acidic, and spicy food and drink
- Discoloration in your teeth
- In the due course, the enamel erosion can also lead to severe complications, including symptoms like:
- Yellow, stained teeth
- Overly sensitive teeth
- Rough edges on your teeth
- Shiny spots on your teeth
- Increased tooth decay
- The gradual wearing of enamel leads to clear slightly translucent teeth.
- Fractured teeth
Causes Of Enamel Erosion
One of the primary reasons behind dental enamel erosion is the acids that are found in the food and beverages that you happen to consume. the saliva is responsible for neutralizing the acids in your mouth constantly and protecting your teeth in due process. However, if your daily diet mainly comprises acidic food items and substances, and you don’t brush your teeth properly, the enamel or the outer layer of your teeth will degrade and erode with time.
Enamel erosion is mostly caused by the foods and beverages you consume, particularly:
- Sugary foods, such as ice cream, syrups, and caramel
- Starchy foods, such as white bread
- Acidic foods, such as apples, citrus fruits, berries, and rhubarb
- Fruit drinks and juices
- Sodas, which typically contain damaging citric acid and phosphoric acid in addition to sugar
- Excess vitamin C, found in citrus fruits
Secondary causes of dental enamel erosion are:
- Teeth grinding
- Chronic acid reflux, popularly known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Low salivary flow, also known as xerostomia, is a symptom of conditions like diabetes
- Regular intake of some particular medications, such as antihistamines and aspirin
- Severe eating disorders like bulimia, which disrupts the digestive system and exposes teeth to stomach acid
- Genetic disorders, including amelogenesis imperfect or enamel hypoplasia, are known to have adverse effects on tooth development.
Can Tooth Enamel Grow Back?
Dental enamel is very hard. But it does not have any living cells and thus cannot repair itself if it happens to undergo a physical trauma or a chemical change. When simply put, this means that the enamel cannot grow back, and once the damage is done – it cannot be undone.
Having said that, dental enamel erosion however takes a decent amount of time. So, if you are already struggling with dental enamel erosion, you can prevent it from becoming worse, even if you cannot undo the damage.
Can My Diet Help Prevent Dental Erosion?
Acid-based foods and drinks are known to lead to dental erosion. Acidity is measured in the units of PH value, and the foods and beverages that are lower than 5.5 are acidic in nature and are capable of your harming your teeth.
Fizzy drinks, sodas, pops, and carbonated drinks can also contribute to dental enamel erosion. It is also important to be aware that the “ diet” brands are equally harmful to your teeth, if not more. Even flavored fizzy drinks can have a negative impact if consumed in large amounts, because they contain weaker acids that are perfectly capable of harming your teeth.
Acid-based foods and beverages including fruits and fruit juices- particularly the citrusy ones including lemons, oranges, and tangerine- contain natural acids which can cause harm to your dents, specifically if you have them every day or in larger amounts.
‘Alcopops’, ‘coolers’, and ‘designer drinks’ that are known to contain acidic fruit extracts and fizzy can lead to erosion too.
Also, purified tap water is literally the best drink for your teeth. Milk is also beneficial because it helps to nullify the effects of acids in your mouth.
Are Sports Drinks Safe?
Many sports drinks are known to have ingredients that can lead to dental erosion and even decay. However, it is necessary for athletes to avoid dehydration- because this might also lead to bad breath and dry mouth.
What Can I Do to Prevent Dental Erosion?
There are a number of suggestions that you might want to consider:
Have acidic food and drinks, and fizzy drinks, sodas, and pops, just at mealtimes. This can bring down the number of acid attacks on your teeth.
Drink quickly, without holding the drink in your mouth or ‘swishing’ it around your mouth. Or use a straw to help drinks go to the back of your mouth and avoid long contact with your teeth.
Finish a meal with cheese or milk as this will help cancel out the acid.
Chew sugar-free gum after eating. This will help produce more saliva to help cancel out the acids which form in your mouth after eating.
Wait for at least one hour after eating or drinking anything acidic before brushing your teeth. This gives your teeth time to build up their mineral content again.
Brush your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with fluoride toothpaste. Use a small-headed brush with medium to soft bristles.
Children up to three years old should use toothpaste with a fluoride level of at least 1000 ppm (parts per million). Three-year-olds to adults should use toothpaste that contains 1350ppm to 1500ppm.
Spit out after brushing and do not rinse, so that the fluoride stays on your teeth longer.
Should I Use Any Other Special Products?
Your dental health expert might recommend using fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash and having fluoride varnish applied at least once every six months, or twice a year.
Treating And Preventing Enamel Erosion
If you are already struggling with severe cases of dental enamel erosion, you might want to see your dentist as soon as possible. They are trained to help you with certain techniques, and the first one is possibly called tooth bonding.
Bonding is a procedure that requires the damaged or stained tooth to be applied with a tooth-colored material called resin. This resin is designed to cover up any stain or discoloration and protect your teeth. You might want to consider tooth bonding if the erosion of your enamel has led to the discoloration of your front teeth.
In some rare but severe cases, your dental health expert might recommend adding a veneer or crown to the damaged teeth to prevent the further process of decay.
The best way however to treat an enamel erosion is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Even if you have some amount of erosion, you can still try to salvage what is left, and save it from becoming much worse and painful- only by practicing a proper oral hygiene and dental care regimen.