Enamel is a term used to refer to the outer layer of the teeth. It is semi-clear in appearance and forms the hard outer layer of your teeth. Enamel protects your teeth against any form of chemical and physical damage and also from daily wear and tear. The enamel of our teeth is very strong and in fact, it is known to be the hardest tissue in the human body. The enamel of your teeth is even harder than your bones. The enamel is the layer that prevents you from feeling any change in temperature extremes when you eat and drink. Therefore, if you consider all these points, you will understand just important the enamel is for protecting your teeth. However, what happens when your enamel becomes eroded? Your day-to-day dental hygiene might be responsible for eroding your teeth’s enamel. So what causes enamel loss, what is its treatments, and how can you prevent it?
What Causes Enamel Loss?
Enamel functions as the first line of defense for your teeth and helps in fighting off the chemicals from food and drinks, and even bodily fluids. Even though it is the hardest tissue in the human body, the enamel is prone to normal wear and tear. In some cases, this wear and tear is more and can cause the enamel to erode. When you start to lose the enamel, your teeth become prone to getting cavities and can even lead to tooth decay. But what causes this enamel to decay?
The primary cause of enamel erosion is the acid which is present in foods and drinks. This acid attacks the tooth enamel and has been identified as being the main cause of enamel erosion. While your saliva works extra hard to wash away or get rid of this acid from your mouth and teeth, but over a period of time, consumption of too much acidic food and drink combined with poor dental hygiene, succeed in wearing down the enamel. At that stage, even this repairing done by your saliva does not work and slowly, bit by bit, the enamel of your teeth start eroding away.
The process of enamel erosion begins with staining of the teeth. With time, as more of the dentine present underneath the enamel becomes exposed, this makes the teeth more sensitive to pain when you drink hot or cold foods and drinks. The same is true for when you have acidic foods as well.
10 Startling Causes of Enamel Loss
Apart from the above mentioned causes, there can be some other causes of tooth enamel erosion. These include:
- Morning sickness caused during pregnancy – the acid in vomit works faster to erode the enamel
- Bulimia – an eating disorder wherein the individual vomits after eating, causing stomach acids to come into the mouth, thus causing enamel erosion
- GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease or any other acid reflux conditions – as these conditions cause the stomach acids to come up into your mouth, it leads to enamel erosion of the teeth
- Dry mouth – any condition that affects the flow and presence of saliva in the mouth causes enamel erosion as saliva is not present to protect the teeth
- Certain medications, particularly vitamin C, iron-containing drugs, aspirin, etc.
- Eating too many sweets – sugar fuels the growth of bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria produce acids that erode the enamel. This gets aggravated if you have poor dental hygiene and don’t brush frequently.
- Sour candies or foods – these foods are high in acid content, which eat away at the teeth’s enamel
- Alcoholism or binge drinking – these conditions cause individuals to vomit frequently, bringing up the acids from the stomach, causing enamel erosion
- Brushing aggressively – even brushing your teeth too hard can cause the enamel to become eroded. Using a soft brush and brushing your teeth gently is recommended.
- Bruxism or grinding your teeth – if you are regularly grinding your teeth, this can do a lot of damage to the enamel.
What Are The Symptoms Of Tooth Erosion?
Once your teeth start to lose its outer covering or shell, you will begin to notice the following symptoms:
- Sensitivity or pain while having hot or cold food/drinks.
- Sensitivity or pain while having sweet or sour food/drinks.
- Feeling uneven edges or feeling a roughness on your teeth – this can cause your tooth to chip easily.
- Shiny and smooth teeth surfaces – an indication of mineral loss.
- Dents on the teeth where you chew or bite from – these indentations are known as cups.
- Yellowish or stained teeth.
High sensitivity or experiencing pain while having hot, cold, acidic, sweet, and spicy food and/or drinks along with discoloration of the teeth is usually a sign that you have a significant amount of enamel erosion.
What Complications Result from Enamel Loss?
Enamel loss can lead to several complications over a period of them. These include:
- Rough edges on the teeth
- Yellow or stained teeth
- Increased occurrence of tooth decay
- Clear and translucent teeth
- Fractured tooth
- Shiny spots visible on the teeth
- Sensitivity to pain
Can The Tooth Enamel Grow Back or Repair Itself?
It is possible for the enamel to repair itself. Saliva is the only option you have for stopping the acid from attacking your teeth and helping in repairing the enamel.
It is possible to halt enamel loss. Your dentist is the best person to guide you on how this can be done. Once enamel loss is detected, your dentist usually advises you to practice some extra oral hygiene. Some recommendations would include using a fluoride varnish treatment, changing your toothpaste, or using a specialized mouthwash.
You may also be required to make some lifestyle and dietary changes.
Prevention & Treatment of Enamel Loss
There are certain treatments available for fixing enamel loss. If your dentist determines that significant enamel erosion has taken place, he/she will recommend that you undergo a procedure known as tooth bonding. In this procedure, the dentist puts a tooth-colored material to the stained or damaged teeth. This material is known as resin. The resin is used for effectively covering up any discolorations on the tooth and also protects your tooth from being damaged further. This process is usually used if enamel loss has caused significant discoloration of the front teeth.
To prevent further decay in extreme cases of enamel erosion, a dentist recommends that you add a veneer or a crown to the damaged teeth.
However, the best treatment for enamel loss is to prevent it from happening in the first place. A good oral hygiene and the following tips can help prevent enamel loss.
- Reduce and also limit your intake of sugary and acidic food and drinks
- If you are having acidic drinks, using a straw makes sure that the acid in the drink stays away from the teeth. Also don’t swish the drink around in your mouth.
- If you are having a particularly sweet or acidic meal, having some cheese or milk afterward helps counter the acid intake
- Try chewing some sugar-free gum after each meal. This not only encourages the production of saliva, but also removes small food particles from your mouth.
- Do not have any acidic food or drink immediately after brushing your teeth.
- Make sure you brush your teeth twice daily, especially before going to bed at night.