While you may think that your bones are the hardest substance in your body, it’s actually your teeth. 😮 The outermost layer of our teeth are made up of enamel, a hard mineral substance. Enamel is the fourth layer of the tooth, and the only one exposed. It covers the dentin – calcified tissue that supports the enamel. It contains 96 percent minerals, which is what makes it so strong. The minerals include calcium, phosphate, water and hydroxyapatite. These minerals are the building blocks of all calcified tissue.
It does not have any nerves or blood vessels– those are at the center of the tooth. Enamel is semi-translucent, so whatever color the dentin is underneath the enamel will impact how a tooth looks. Enamel protects the teeth during daily use such as chewing, biting and grinding. But it can still chip and crack despite its mineral makeup. It also protects the teeth from extreme temperatures and chemical exposure.
Because enamel does not contain nerves or blood vessels, it cannot regenerate like your skin can if you get a cut or scrape. This is why going to the dentist regularly and having good oral hygiene is important–one enamel is damaged, it has to be repaired through a dental procedure.
How enamel gets broken down
Enamel gets worn down or eroded when it is exposed to enough damaging substances or acids, usually through foods, medications or certain chronic conditions and behaviors. They include:
- Fruit juices (high level of acidity)
- Carbonated beverages (contain phosphoric and citric acids)
- Sugary drinks and foods (bacteria on teeth combine with sugar to cause decay)
- Acid reflux and heartburn
- Dry mouth (saliva protects teeth)
- Taking aspirin (contains acids)
- Taking antihistamines (causes dry mouth)
- Grinding of teeth while sleeping
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Frequent vomiting
- Biting nails
How to protect enamel
Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent your tooth enamel from eroding and wearing down. Following these behaviors can help keep your teeth healthy and cavity-free.
- Use fluoride toothpaste – Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in many water sources, and also helps teeth resist acid erosion. Most drinking water contains fluoride and can help resist decay, but using a fluoride toothpaste regularly can keep teeth strong and healthy and replace some of the minerals lost when teeth are exposed to acids.
- Reduce the amount of eating between meals – It’s not necessarily the amount of acids and sugars that does the most damage to enamel, but the frequency that the enamel is exposed to acids and sugars. Constantly snacking is a constant attack on tooth enamel.
- Limit intake of acidic foods – Sodas and citrus juices in particular cause damage to teeth, and drinking them frequently can accelerate the erosion of teeth enamel. If you do drink sodas or fruit juices, drink water after to rid your mouth and teeth of acids.
- Use a straw when drinking an acidic beverage – This helps keep the acid away from most of the teeth, but is not a foolproof method to avoid acid damage.
- Chew sugar-free gum – Chewing gum helps to generate saliva, which protects teeth.
- Ask your dentist about sealants – If you have teeth with deep grooves or seem to attract plaque, particularly back molars, sealants can help protect enamel from decay. Sealants are a thin protective mineral or plastic coating that have been shown to reduce the risk of decay by 80 percent in molars.
Here at Perdido Bay Dental, we provide more than just routine checkups (which you need!). If your enamel is worn on some of your teeth, we can seal them to prevent further damage. If you’re located in or near west Pensacola, call us today to schedule an appointment: (850) 542-4428. You can also check out our patient reviews to see what others have to say about Perdido By Dental and Dr. Djuric.