The enamel on your teeth is an important part of the aesthetic of your face. Not only are your teeth in plain view for everyone to see, but the smile on your face is also one of the first things people see. A welcoming smile with white, unbroken teeth makes a great first impression. But, if your enamel has lost its luster, people may be looking at a tight-lipped smile or smelling bad breath. And, tooth enamel is critical in your overall oral health as well as your ability to chew food. The important thing to note about enamel is that, once it is damaged, it can’t be brought back. That being said, weakened enamel can be restored to some degree by improving its mineral content.
To help you understand more about your tooth enamel and what you can do to improve its condition, our Cary and Holly Springs dentists at Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry are giving you some tips for taking care of the enamel on your teeth.
For your entire life, our teeth are constantly under attack from harmful bacteria caused by the food we eat–in particular, sugar. Bacteria feed on food particles in the mouth and create by-products that wear away at the surface of the teeth, ultimately causing tooth decay. Another challenge we have when trying to keep our enamel in good shape is dental erosion.
Even though the tooth’s enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, it still erodes and becomes damaged over time. When the pH on the tooth’s surface becomes acidic and drops below 5.5, the enamel slowly begins to dissolve.
Acidic foods of any kind temporarily soften tooth enamel and cause it to lose important minerals. Before the pH balance of the mouth is restored by your saliva, the enamel is at risk of being permanently damaged. Dental erosion can be prevented by adjusting your diet to avoid acidic foods. Finishing a meal with cheese or milk reduces the acid and helps to restore the pH balance more quickly. Some sugar-free gums can also help by naturally stimulating saliva production after eating. To reduce damage to your tooth enamel, wait at least an hour after a meal before you brush your teeth.
Restoring Tooth Enamel
As we stated earlier, once tooth enamel has been damaged, it cannot be brought back, but you can help to restore weakened enamel by improving its mineral content. Some kinds of toothpaste and mouthwashes, though they can’t rebuild teeth, can contribute to this remineralization process.
Remineralization introduces minerals, especially calcium, to your teeth. Minerals will bond to the surface of the teeth and be drawn to the weak points in the enamel. This is very helpful with dental erosion cases when tooth surfaces are weakened without being chipped or cracked.
Because enamel’s chief ingredient is calcium phosphate, products with high concentrations of this together with fluoride are best to help teeth remineralize naturally before the damage is too severe. Look for toothpaste that has calcium, phosphate, and fluoride. For remineralization to occur optimally, these three minerals need to be available in the mouth for prolonged periods.
Ways to Protect Your Teeth
There may be some things outside of your control, like heredity or when the damage is already sever, but there are things you can do to protect your tooth enamel and avoid symptoms such as pain, sensitivity, and discoloration.
Avoid Sugary, Acidic Foods and Drinks
Foods and beverages that are highly acidic and sugary allow bacteria to grow in your mouth and break down your tooth enamel. Limit your consumption of candy, pastries, and soft drinks, and drinking excessive alcohol. All of these can contribute to dental erosion. Always use moderation if you do consume foods and drinks with high acid or sugar content. We recommend you drink beverages that can harm your tooth enamel with a straw in order to minimize contact with your teeth.
Eat Plenty of Fruits, Veggies, and Dairy Products
Fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber and help increase saliva flow in your mouth. This can protect your tooth enamel against the harmful effects of acid and restore trace minerals to your teeth. Dairy foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt are good sources of calcium, which strengthens tooth enamel. If you are intolerant to dairy products, you can add foods that are fortified with calcium, such as some ready-to-eat cereals, to your diet.
You should brush your teeth at least twice a day, but don’t brush vigorously! Brushing too hard or with a toothbrush that has hard bristles, will wear away some of your tooth enamel. Use a soft toothbrush and use short gentle strokes for two minutes each time you brush.
Visit Your Dentist Regularly
Having regularly scheduled appointments with your dentist allows them the opportunity to detect signs of tooth enamel erosion when it is in its early stages. Your dentist can make recommendations to reduce erosion, such as having a fluoride varnish applied to your teeth or using a prescription toothpaste that has more fluoride in it. Veneers are a cosmetic dental procedure that can be applied to the front side of your teeth and used for the protection of vulnerable teeth in more advanced cases of erosion.
Treat Heartburn and Eating Disorders
If you have severe heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach acids may escape and reach your mouth, where they erode enamel. The eating disorder bulimia, in which people vomit food after they eat, threatens your enamel because of the acid. If you have either condition, you should talk to your doctor about treatment.
Beware of Dry Mouth
A dry mouth is a culprit to your tooth enamel. Saliva helps to wash away food and bacteria that lead to cavities. When you have a dry mouth, your saliva is diminished. You should drink water often to keep your mouth clean and moist. Also, chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless hard candy can keep saliva flowing. Some medical conditions and medications can cause a dry mouth. Talk to your physician about treatments.
Avoid Grinding Your Teeth
If you grind your upper and lower teeth together, especially at night, over time it can wear down the enamel on your teeth. Talk to your dentist about your grinding. He/she may suggest a custom-fitted mouth guard that can protect your teeth.
Contact Us to Schedule an Appointment with Our Dentists in Cary and Holly Springs
If you see changes in your tooth enamel, whether it is erosion or darkening, call us today. We can help you protect your teeth and keep a healthy, beautiful smile. Call us at our Holly Springs dentist office at (919) 600-6262 and our Cary dentist office at (919) 467-2203, or complete our easy-to-use contact form to schedule an appointment.