When you think about a tooth or what you see when you smile, that's enamel. Tooth enamel is the outer most layer of a tooth and its purpose is to protect the contents including dentin and tooth pulp. This layer is hard, even harder than bone.
Tooth enamel is an oxymoron of sorts because although it's a hard substance, it too is susceptible to corrosion and damage mainly from bacteria and acid.
What Tooth Enamel Does
The internal structures that make up your teeth are too soft to withstand the pressure of constant grinding and chewing. Just behind the enamel is dentin which gives your teeth their structure. The dentin could not withstand temperature sensitivity from hot or cold drinks or grinding food. The enamel therefore protects these internal structures just as a medieval soldier wears armor to protect his body and organs.
Unlike other body organs that re-grow or repair such as scar tissue, enamel does not naturally replenish itself. Remember that this is not a living organ and once it begins to erode or wear down only a dentist can restore your teeth.
What Causes Enamel Erosion
Although enamel is a hard substance, it is very vulnerable to bacteria and acid. Some of the worst culprits in this case include; sugar and acids found in drinks and food, dry mouth, certain medication, hereditary flaws and acid reflux.
Signs Enamel is Eroding
Most signs of enamel erosion are subtle and easy to ignore. The first and most common sign is tooth sensitivity when eating or drinking hot or cold foods and drinks. Discoloration or yellow teeth are also a common sign of enamel erosion. Other signs include;
- Chipped or rough teeth (especially around the edges)
- Unusually shiny teeth
Protecting Against Enamel Erosion
Fortunately, there are a few simple pre-emptive measures that you can take to preserve your enamel. The most effective preventive measure is to watch what you eat and drink. Limit or eliminate from your diet;
- Sports drinks
- Soft drinks
- Sour candy
Brush your teeth at least twice a day or after eating or drinking and use fluoride toothpaste. Note that most of the water you drink already contains fluoride so be careful about overusing fluoride products. Too much of a good thing is bad and this includes fluoride. Chees and milk help to neutralize acids found in the mouth which may compromise your enamel.
Lastly, visit a dentist at least twice every year for a dental checkup. Your enamel issues can be resolved easily and quickly if detected early.