You’ve probably heard your dentist talk about “tooth enamel” at some point during your last visit. And though the topic comes up relatively often at our dental practice, we have come to notice that not all patients know what we’re talking about when we explain the importance of protecting tooth enamel!
Are you ever confused when your dentist talks about tooth enamel? Do you know what it is? How important it is? How you can protect it?
To help our patients understand how to effectively protect their teeth from decay, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide to all things tooth enamel!
What is tooth enamel?
Tooth enamel is the hard outer surface of your teeth that protects your teeth from decay. It is made up mostly of minerals, primarily hydroxyapatite, and its colour can vary from a light yellow to a grayish white.
Tooth enamel is considered the hardest substance in your body and is even stronger than bone!
Why is it important to protect tooth enamel?
Despite its strength, everyday foods can put enamel at risk and believe it or not, we can’t regrow tooth enamel. Your body can help strengthen the enamel that you have, but it can’t remake it once it’s gone! That’s why it’s important to protect the tooth enamel that you have.
If your teeth start losing their outer shell, you might notice:
- Sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods or drinks
- Smooth, shiny surfaces on the teeth, a sign of mineral loss
- Cupping, or dents, that show up where you bit or chew
- Rough or uneven edges on the teeth, which can crack or chip when they lose their enamel
- Yellow teeth
Luckily, there are natural ways you can protect your tooth enamel to ensure your teeth and gums stay healthy for life!
How to protect tooth enamel naturally:
Watch out for dry mouth
Xerostomia, or chronic dry mouth, is a medical condition that can pose problems for your mouth as a whole, and your tooth enamel specifically. Your saliva contains minerals like calcium and phosphate, that maintain and protect your teeth’s enamel. However, when you have dry mouth, your spit levels are low – making your mouth dry – and when your mouth has less saliva, your enamel and teeth are more vulnerable than when you have a mouthful of spit.
To increase your mouth’s production of saliva, you need to chew!
Chew your food more thoroughly while eating and lightly snack or chew gym between meals.
Minimize acid reflux, GERD or heartburn
If you have been diagnosed with acid reflux, GERD or heartburn, your dental health might be at risk. Gastroesophageal acid reflux disease, or GERD, can bring stomach acids back up from the stomach and into the mouth, damaging your teeth in the process.
If you suffer from acid reflux, ensure you follow your doctor’s orders. Minimizing symptoms by eating non-triggering foods will keep stomach acid at bay and protect, not only your esophagus, but your teeth as well!
Rinse your mouth often
Rinse your mouth out with water after each meal. This will wash away any food debris in your mouth and help prevent cavities.
Rinsing your mouth is particularly important after eating sugary or acidic foods that will destroy tooth enamel if they are left to sit on your teeth for too long.
Chew sugar-free gum
Chew sugar-free gum between, or after meals to stimulate the flow of saliva. Saliva washes acid off your teeth and protects your enamel all day long.
Sugar-free gum does not have any sugar and its taste is added using sweeteners. Therefore, the gum does not cause tooth decay. Chewing gum will also help protect your teeth and gums between meals when you may not be able to brush with a toothbrush and a fluoride type toothpaste.
Avoid citrus, fruit juices, alcoholic beverages
Having an acid-rich diet can put your tooth enamel at risk of acid erosion. In fact, as few as four acidic instances throughout the day is all it takes to damage enamel.
The foods that you drink and consume can cause the most damage. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), soft drinks are the most frequent source of erosive acids, due to their high acidity and frequency of consumption. Other drinks like fruit juice, sports drinks and energy drinks can also damage your teeth through acidic erosion.
Dairy is a fantastic tool in the fight against acid erosion. Dairy is not acidic, and does not harm tooth enamel. It also improves saliva production which naturally cleans teeth of debris and restores the mouth back to a healthy ph balance.
One of the best ways to protect your teeth’s enamel is to work with your dentist.