Teeth are comprised of two primary parts: the crown and the root. The root is located below the gum line, and the crown is the part you see when you smile. The crown is further broken down into two parts: dentin and enamel.
Dentin is what gives a tooth its color. It holds many nerve fibers that cause a toothache if something goes wrong. Enamel is the thin, translucent outer covering of your tooth. According to WebMD, this tough little shell is the hardest tissue in the human body. Its purpose is to protect your teeth from daily wear and tear caused by biting and chewing. It also shields the dentin from cold and hot food and potentially damaging chemicals.
Even though enamel is strong, it’s not unbreakable. In fact, it can chip, crack and erode away under certain conditions. And unlike a broken bone that can heal itself, enamel has no living cells, so the body can’t repair damaged enamel. This means once the damage is done, it’s permanent.
Learn the causes of tooth enamel erosion according to WebMD so you can avoid them and maintain a beautiful, healthy smile for years to come.
Causes of Enamel Erosion
Enamel is susceptible to acidic substances. Avoid consuming the following things to help prevent tooth erosion:
- Soft drinks, especially those high in phosphoric and citric acids
- Fruit beverages, some of which contain acids more erosive than battery acid
- Foods high in sugar, starches and acids
- Certain medications, including aspirin, vitamin C tablets and antihistamines
Other causes of enamel erosion are medically related. These include:
- Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, which can be caused by certain diseases, medications, nerve damage or dehydration
- Acid reflux disease, or GERD, which sends stomach acid splashing up into the esophagus
- Frequent vomiting from bulimia or alcoholism
- Other gastrointestinal problems
- Inherited conditions making your enamel more susceptible to erosion
Then, environmental factors contribute to tooth enamel erosion. These include:
- Tooth-to-tooth friction (attrition) caused by teeth clenching and grinding, which can occur without your knowledge while you sleep
- Abrasion caused by brushing your teeth too hard, flossing incorrectly, fingernail biting or chewing tobacco
- Stress fractures (abfraction) caused from a flexing or bending tooth
- Bacteria in plaque, which can sometimes turn into acids and eat away at tooth enamel
Sign of Enamel Erosion
Based on the causes listed above, are you worried your tooth enamel may be eroding? Watch for these signs of enamel erosion:
- Tooth sensitivity to sweets and hot and cold temperatures
- Tooth discoloration as more enamel erodes away
- Jagged, irregular teeth
- Severe sensitivity to sweets and temperatures
- Indentations called cupping on the surface of your teeth
Preventing Enamel Erosion
Eroding enamel isn’t purely cosmetic. Based on the signs of enamel erosion listed above, it’s clear the condition can cause painful tooth sensitivity. Your teeth also become more susceptible to cavities and decay as enamel erodes away. As small cavities grow and penetrate deeper into the dentin, they can contact nerve fibers and cause abscesses or infections, which are extremely painful.
Here are the best ways to prevent enamel loss and avoid facing the negative side effects of eroded teeth:
- Brush and floss your teeth twice daily. Make sure you use fluoride toothpaste. If you think you might be brushing or flossing incorrectly, staff at Cowden Family Dental can help.
- Ask us about using daily fluoride mouthwash if you have a history of cavities.
- Schedule an appointment with Dr. Cowden every six months for a checkup and tooth cleaning.
- Find out if dental sealants could be helpful for preventing enamel erosion and tooth decay in your situation. We most often place sealants on children’s permanent teeth, since these are most prone to cavities.
- Avoid soda, lemonade, citrus fruits, and other highly acidic foods and drinks. When you do consume acidic drinks, use a straw to reduce contact with your teeth.
- Rinse your mouth or chew sugar-free gum after meals and snacks, especially if you eat sugary or starchy food.
- Drink more water throughout the day to wash acids away.
Treating Enamel Erosion
Enamel loss can’t be reversed, but you can take certain steps to improve the appearance of your smile and prevent further damage:
- Look into a cosmetic dental procedure offered by Cowden Family Dental called bonding. This process involves adhering tooth-colored materials to your teeth to improve their appearance.
- You can also choose to have Dr. Cowden put in dental crowns to protect eroded teeth from further decay.
For more information about protecting your teeth from erosion, please contact Cowden Family Dental. You can also call us at (505) 273-3080 to schedule a preventative appointment or treatment.