Next time you look in the mirror, smile really big and look closely at your teeth. What you don't see covering your teeth is your enamel. Enamel is a thin, translucent tissue that covers each tooth. In fact, it'sthe hardest tissue in the human body.
Your teeth depend on this enamel to protect them from the wear and tear of everyday activities. However, the damage some of those daily activities are doing to your enamel might make your smile fade a bit.
What is happening to my enamel?
Some of your daily activities might seem harmless, but they could damage your enamel.
Drinking. Whether you drink alcohol, tea, coffee, soda or even fruit juices, you douse your enamel with acid each time you take a drink. This acid can cause cracksin your enamel, causing stains and tooth sensitivity. Smoking also affects enamel because the tobacco can discolour your teeth.
Grinding. Do you grind or clench your teeth while you sleep or when you are worried? These actions put a lot of stress on your enamel and could cause it to chip or crack.
Vomiting. When the natural acid in your stomach comesin contact with your teeth, it wears away the enamel.
Dehydrating. If you have a dry mouth or a low salivary flow, you may be more susceptible to enamel damage. Saliva reduces acid from the mouth, so a lack of saliva givesthe acid more of a chance to do harm.
Eating. Foods high in sugar, starch, or acid can tarnish your enamel. These elements erode your enamel, allowing them to cause cavities.
Over time, these activitiescould deteriorate your enamel and put your teeth at risk. Eroded enamel usually means more cavities or tooth decay in your mouth. And because enamel doesn't have living cells, any erosion done to it is permanent.
How can I help my enamel?
Although the purpose of enamel isto protect your teeth from cavities and decay, it needs extra help so it can keep up that layer of protection.
Brush and floss. This might seem obvious, but brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day helpsclean acid from your teeth before it can attack your enamel. You can even use fluoride toothpaste to help strengthen your teeth.
Chew sugar-free gum. When you chew gum, your saliva production increases. The saliva then coats your teeth with calcium and other mineralsthat protect against acid.
Drink milk. Instead of drinking acidic beverages, drink milk. The calcium in milk helpscounteract the acid in your mouth. If you do drink soda or fruit juice, sip it with a straw. This way, the acid goesto the back of your mouth without making contact with your teeth.
Eat and rinse. As often as you can, rinse your mouth out with water immediately after you eat. You can even add a teaspoon of baking soda to a glass of water and rinse to help remove stains.
Limit snacks. Unless you are able to brush and rinse right after, limit the number of snacks you eat throughout the day. When you snack, food staysin your mouth longer and gives acid that much more time to harm your enamel.
What are the signs of enamel erosion?
Usually, you won't be able to tell your enamel is eroding just by looking at your mouth. Some of the symptoms of enamel erosion include the following:
- Sensitivity or pain due when chewing hot or cold foods
- Discolouration of teeth (usually yellow or brown)
- Cracks and chips
- Cupping (indentationsthat appear on the surface of teeth)
If you are experiencing these symptoms, visit your dentist. Your dentist can help limit stains by cleaning and polishing your teeth at your six-month appointments. How your dentist will treat for enamel damage depends on the degree of enamel loss. He or she may recommend sealants, tooth bonding, crowns, or veneersto protect your teeth from any further damage.