Tooth Enamel 101

Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, made up of water, organic matter and 96% calcium phosphate crystals. Enamel is also free from nerves and blood vessels. For this reason, regeneration and repair is impossible, so it’s important to care for the enamel you have! Caring for your enamel is also important because it acts as an excellent first line of defense against bacteria, acid and other threats to your teeth.

What Causes Enamel Erosion?Tooth Enamel

To an extent, enamel erosion cannot be avoided; it’s just part of the aging process. However, it’s also easily affected by the acids and sugars in food and drink, in addition to impacts from other habits and health factors.

One of the leading causes of enamel erosion is excessive consumption of starchy, sugary and acidic food and drinks. But, foods aren’t the only thing threatening your enamel. For example, grinding your teeth at night while you’re sleeping can also cause enamel erosion and depletion over time.

Some of the other factors that can contribute to enamel erosion include:

  • Chewing inedible objects like pen caps or even ice cubes
  • Certain medications
  • Bad habits such as smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Diseases and health issues, such as bulimia, dry mouth or acid reflux, which can introduce excessive acids to teeth

How to Prevent Erosion & Protect Your Tooth Enamel

When you drink coffee or soda or eat candy, it’s important to minimize the exposure your teeth have with these stain-inducing items.¹ The plaque that builds up on your teeth from these foods and beverages over time will end up eating away your enamel. While most people don’t keep a toothbrush handy at the office, the more often that you can brush or rinse your mouth after consuming sugary or acidic items, the better!

Other suggestions to keep your enamel healthy and your mouth happy include:

  • Regularly flossing your teeth to keep plaque buildup at bay
  • Using a soft toothbrush; hard bristle tooth brushes can damage enamel over time
  • Using a straw to drink sugary or acidic drinks to minimize contact with your teeth

Can I Restore My Tooth Enamel?

Unfortunately, enamel restoration is not entirely possible.² Your best bet is to put efforts in place to protect your existing enamel and prevent damage.

However, teeth whitening can help your enamel shine by improving the darker pigmented dentin that is beneath your enamel, as this is where stains often set in. When you decide to whiten your teeth, for the most part you are deciding to bleach the enamel of your teeth. For that reason it is important to talk with your dental professional about the best method of bleaching for your specific teeth. Depending on the health of your enamel, the heat from lasers associated with Zoom whitening or other laser whitening methods could cause permanent sensitivity and damage to the interior pulp of your teeth.

There are a lot of factors that threaten the appearance of your teeth and the health of your enamel. That’s why it’s so important to take a proactive approach to protecting the integrity of your teeth, starting with your enamel.

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