Out of all the substances our bodies are made of, the enamel of our teeth is the hardest substance in our entire bodies. Despite this fact, enamel can wear down, become discolored, decay, and break down. A 2015 study in the Journal of Restorative Dentistry noted that the number of adults with severe tooth enamel wear generally rises from approximately three percent in young people in their early 20s and to 17 percent in those over the age of 70. There are ways to protect your tooth enamel and make sure it lasts your whole lifetime.
What our teeth are made of
Our teeth are made up of four different substances:
- Pulp – The soft center tissue of the tooth that contains nerves, blood vessels, and other connective tissue.
- Cementum – This is a hard connective tissue that covers the root of the tooth and also attaches to other ligaments.
- Dentin – The dentin layer contains very small hollow tubes, that, when exposed cause sensitivity when exposed to extreme hot or cold. When your enamel wears down, the dentin is exposed, causing this sensitivity.
- Enamel – The outermost layer of the tooth is the enamel. Enamel is not made of any living cells, and thus it cannot repair itself once it is damaged or decayed.
How enamel gets destroyed
Enamel is one of the most important parts of the tooth, as it acts as the main defense layer for all the more sensitive layers within the tooth, as noted above. Even though enamel is stronger than our bones, things like drinking coffee regularly and not brushing our teeth can wear it down and cause decay. Plaque buildup that stays on the teeth for a long time can weaken and destroy enamel, causing a cavity (a decayed part of the tooth), something that can only be fixed by a dentist. As the American Dental Association notes, once enamel is gone it cannot regenerate. Only a dentist can make enamel repairs. If you’re located in the west Pensacola, Lillian, Perdido area, call us today at (850) 542-4428. Dr. Djuric has over 25 years’ experience helping repair damaged, enamel-worn teeth for thousands of patients.
3 Types of Enamel Damage
- Enamel can be damaged by abrasion. This could be brushing your teeth with a hard-bristled toothbrush, or scraping your teeth with metal or plastic. Abrasion can also happen if you use your teeth to open bottles or packaging.
- Another type of enamel damage is erosion. Erosion happens when the tooth enamel is constantly exposed to acidic foods or beverages–think coffee, wine, soda, spicy foods, and citrus foods and drinks. Acid reflux caused by certain foods can also erode away the tooth enamel.
- The third type of enamel damage is through attrition. This occurs when a person consistently grind or clench their teeth, particularly when they sleep. The enamel on enamel contact is damaging in and of itself, with the hard surfaces constantly rubbing against each other.
How to protect your enamel
Preventing all these types of enamel damage is important in keeping your teeth healthy as you get older. While it’s difficult to protect enamel once damage has occurred beyond going to a dentist and getting a cavity filled, you can protect teeth that haven’t had had dental work.
- Reduce intake of acidic food and drink – While it’s not easy, limiting your daily intake of coffee, alcohol beverages, and acidic foods can prevent enamel erosion and eventual decay.
- Use toothpaste with fluoride in it – Fluoride is naturally found in the air and water. Fluoride was added to drinking water supplies in the 1940s, as scientists found that communities with fluoride in their water had fewer cavities. Fluoride works with saliva to protect tooth enamel from plaque and sugars. It is found in toothpastes and mouthwashes, and your dentist usually applies a fluoride coating at your annual dental checkup. If you deal with sensitive teeth, we recommend against standard toothpastes, and instead use brands like Sensodyne.
- Get a mouthguard – If attrition is the type of damage you’re struggling with, from grinding or clenching your teeth, talk to your dentist about getting a mouthguard to wear while you’re sleeping to prevent the enamel-on-enamel contact.
- Use the correct toothbrush – As noted, hard bristles can damage your teeth even while you’re trying to keep them clean. Ask your dentist about what kind of toothbrush is best for your teeth. Usually a soft-bristled, electric toothbrush is the best at preventing decay.
The most important part of both preventing and treating enamel damage is by seeing a dentist regularly. They can do fluoride treatments and advise you if it looks like your teeth are becoming vulnerable to decay, and also fix any damage through a filling. If you suspect you are more susceptible to enamel decay, talk to your dentist about what you can do to protect your enamel.
If you would like to schedule an evaluation and/or cleaning, call us today at (850) 542-4428.