Tooth enamel is the protective outer layer of your pearly whites that prevents decay. Your enamel is the strongest substance in your body—even stronger than your bones! However, it’s far from indestructible. A few simple yet destructive habits and factors in our everyday lives can cause enamel erosion, which leads to weakened, sensitive, and vulnerable teeth. Read on as your Orange Park dentist explains more about this common condition and what you can do to keep your smile healthy and strong.
What Is Enamel Erosion?
There are three main layers of your teeth: the hard, outer shell of enamel, the thin layer of dentin underneath, and the sensitive inner parts that contain the tooth’s pulp and nerve. The enamel protects the tooth from potentially harmful temperatures, pressure, chemicals, and bacteria. However, exposure to acid or abrasion can wear down the enamel, causing it to become thinner and reveal the layers underneath. Unlike your bones, your body cannot repair a tooth once it chips, cracks, or becomes damaged. While your dentist may be able to help you repair or rebuild it, the best option is to prevent enamel erosion from happening in the first place.
What Causes Enamel Erosion?
Unfortunately, there are several factors that can take a toll on the strength of your enamel, including:
- Acidic drinks: Beverages like wine, fruit juice, soda, sports drinks, and energy drinks all wash your teeth in acids while you drink them, which eats away at your enamel.
- Sugary diet: While sugar itself isn’t acidic, it encourages the growth of acid-producing oral bacteria and fosters an acidic environment in your mouth.
- Dry mouth: Saliva helps enamel absorb important minerals that keep it strong. Without it, your teeth become weaker and more susceptible to erosion. There are many factors that can cause a dry mouth, like alcohol, certain medications, allergies, diabetes, and sleep apnea.
- Health disorders: Conditions like acid reflux and bulimia expose your teeth to your stomach acid, which is extremely strong and can quickly burn through your enamel.
- Genetics: Certain health disorders that can be inherited may increase your risk of enamel erosion.
- Teeth grinding: Untreated sleep apnea and stress can cause a condition known as bruxism, which causes you to grind your teeth in your sleep. The extra nightly pressure will inevitably scratch away your enamel over time.
- Bad habits: Chewing on hard objects like pen caps, ice, or your fingernails wears down your enamel and weakens your teeth.
How Do I Keep My Smile Healthy & Strong?
Even though there are many factors that can erode your enamel, there are plenty of steps you can take to keep your teeth strong and healthy as well, like:
- Cut back on sugary and acidic foods and drinks.
- Only eat during mealtimes.
- Chew sugarless gum and drink plenty of water between meals.
- Use fluoridated toothpastes and mouthwashes to strengthen your teeth.
- Ask your dentist if sealants or fluoride treatments would help you prevent enamel erosion.
If your teeth are sensitive, discolored, cracked, or misshapen, you may be experiencing enamel erosion. Call your Orange Park dentist right away to get back to enjoying your happy, healthy, and strong smile!
About the Author
Dr. Matthew Nawrocki is proud to help smiles of all ages in Orange Park, FL and the surrounding communities achieve optimal oral health. Thanks to his years of extensive training and experience, he has the equipment and skill to help you overcome nearly any oral health issue, from cavities to tooth replacement. However, he and his team focus on helping patients prevent any issues from developing in the first place by encouraging biannual dental checkups. If you’re worried you may be suffering from enamel erosion, don’t hesitate to contact him via his website or at (904) 272-1588.