The enamel is a protective outer layer of the teeth that covers the crown. Enamel is transparent, but has the distinction of being the hardest tissue in the body. When the enamel is damaged, very serious dental problems can occur. The professional dentistry team from Santa Rosa Dental recommends the following tips on protecting your teeth’s enamel.
Tooth Enamel Erosion
Children, teenagers, and adults are all susceptible to enamel erosion. Once the enamel erodes away, teeth are prone to attracting more plaque and bacteria. Over time, plaque buildup contributes to tooth decay and cavities. Cavities are irreversible holes in the teeth—requiring restorative treatments such as fillings and root canals to repair. In severe cases, the tooth may be pulled.
Early signs of tooth erosion include discoloration and gum sensitivity. Yellowed teeth mean the enamel has eroded and the layer of dentin underneath is exposed. A white spot on the teeth is another sign that minerals are being lost and decay has started. When you consume hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks, you could feel a slight tingle at the site of the eroded tooth. Often, the shape of the teeth will change when the enamel has eroded away. The teeth may have a round shape and the surfaces could have small dents. Cracks and sharpened edges could also occur during the phases of teeth erosion.
Causes of Erosion
Diet is the top contributing factor to tooth enamel loss. Highly acidic foods leach calcium from the enamel and break down the tooth. While you eat acidic foods and beverages, the enamel is softened and left open to permanent damage. Fruit juices and wine are examples of beverages that damage the enamel. Fruits and juices to be most cautious about include lemon, cranberry, apple, grapefruit, and orange. Foods and beverages high in sugar may not be high in acids, but they produce bacteria—contributing to a highly acidic environment in the mouth. Candy, pastries, sugary cereals, and syrups are a few examples of sweets that can be damaging to the teeth. Even medications can have very high levels of acids, including aspirin and vitamin C supplements.
Certain medical conditions will promote tooth enamel loss. Acid reflux damages the teeth as the excess acid is pushed out of your stomach and into the mouth. Allergy sufferers are also prone to tooth loss because of dry mouth. Medical conditions such as bulimia and alcoholism could damage the enamel due to excess vomiting.
The way you care for your teeth could also be attributing to tooth enamel loss. Although you may want to remove as much plaque as possible when brushing, you could also damage the enamel by brushing too hard. Softer bristled brushes are less damaging. Grinding your teeth, a condition known as bruxism, is another way an individual could be damaging their enamel.
Dry mouth can also contribute to tooth erosion. The saliva in our mouths carries important minerals to protect the teeth. Calcium, phosphate, and fluoride can all be found inside the saliva. If you suffer from a medical condition that contributes to dry mouth, you may be more prone to tooth decay.
Tooth Decay Prevention
Making dietary changes will be the first way to prevent tooth enamel damage. Avoid acidic beverages such as soft drinks and fruit juices. Limit consumption of wine too. Drink mostly water and unsweetened teas. Drinking milk will also help protect the teeth since the beverage is high in calcium. Dairy products should be a part of your diet with yogurt and cheeses consumed in moderate amounts. Nutritious meals are best for protecting your teeth. Choose mostly lean meats, whole grains, and vegetables at mealtimes. After you eat, wash down the food in your mouth with a full glass of water. If you choose any other type of beverage than water, use a straw to drink. Straws limit the amount of sugars and acids that come into contact with your teeth.
Brush regularly—at least twice a day for two minutes each time. Avoid brushing right after you eat though since this could actually expose your teeth to more of the acids and sugars inside your mouth. Teeth are also softer right after meals, so wait at least 30 minutes to brush. Use a fluoride toothpaste and a soft bristled brush on all teeth. Floss at least once a day to remove any food that has become lodged in between the teeth.
Dental Treatment Options
Treatment is available for damaged teeth. If decay has occurred, you may feel pain or sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages. Although damaged enamel cannot be restored, your dentist can perform other treatments to help provide pain relief and fix any teeth with chips or cavities. An experienced dentist can also provide recommendations on protecting teeth. Fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinses will expose your teeth to the process of remineralization. During remineralization, minerals bond to the weakened area of the teeth where erosion has occurred.
Sealants are an option as a way to protect the teeth. Sealants are transparent coatings placed on the tops of the teeth. The sealants create a protective layer around the surface area. When sealants are placed in the mouth, less food and bacteria are likely to get stuck there.
Another way to help prevent tooth decay is to make regular appointments with your dentist. At each visit, a dental provider will examine the teeth to check for signs of damage. During cleanings, plaque and tartar will be removed. Fluoride office treatments also add an extra layer of protection around the teeth. Most dentists recommend every six months for checkups, but you may need additional visits based on your overall dental health.
Santa Rosa Dental is available to help you achieve your perfect smile. Our professional and experienced dental team performs services for general dentistry, restorative dentistry, and cosmetic dentistry. Contact us today to set up an appointment with a friendly and caring dentist from our practice.