The enamel on your teeth is the hardest material in your body. But, despite its perceived toughness, dental enamel is a lot more fragile than you think. It can crack or chip if you bite down on something very hard. It can also erode if your teeth are continually exposed to acid.
Your teeth’s enamel plays a big role in protecting your teeth from discomfort and damage. Without it, everyday activities such as eating and drinking would be a lot more painful. The enamel protects the nerves on the inside of your teeth, too, shielding them from temperature fluctuations.
Just as you want to protect your gums from gum disease by brushing and flossing and seeing a dentist regularly, you also want to protect your teeth from enamel erosion. Since a few factors can cause erosion, from diet to habits, there are a number of steps you can take to protect your teeth.
Watch What You Eat
For something so hard and tough seeming, enamel wears away fairly easily. Exposing your teeth to certain foods and beverages can speed that erosion. One of the worst culprits when it comes to enamel erosion is soda. Not only is soda very sugary, it also tends to be very acidic. Sodas typically contain citric acid or phosphoric acid, which given them a zingy taste, but also happen to be bad news for teeth.
Soda isn’t the only acidic drink out there. Orange juice and other citrus juices also tend to be high in acid. If you don’t want to give up juice or soda completely, there are ways you can minimize the damage these products cause to your teeth. One option is to use a straw when drinking them, so that the liquid has limited contact with your teeth. Another is to drink them only with a meal, to minimize the time they spend on your teeth. A final option is to alternate taking sips with soda or juice with taking sips of water, to rinse away the acidic liquid and keep it from lingering on the teeth.
Solid foods can also wear down the enamel on your teeth, particularly foods that are high in sugar or simple starches. The sugary or simple carbs in those foods mix with the bacteria in your mouth to create an acidic environment. Limiting the number of sweets you eat can help protect your teeth.
Some foods or drinks can offer a bit of protection against acid erosion. For example, cheese and other dairy products such as milk, contain high amounts of calcium, which can help your enamel. Dairy products also tend to neutralize acid, reducing its effects on your teeth.
Treat Certain Conditions
Your diet isn’t the only thing that can cause enamel erosion. Some health conditions can contribute to it by creating an acidic environment in your mouth. An example of a condition that can make enamel erosion worse is GERD, or acid reflux disease. If you suffer from GERD, you might have stomach acid wash back up into your mouth on a regular basis. The condition is uncomfortable, but can be treated with medicine or with surgery if it doesn’t respond to medication.
Suffering from dry mouth can also contribute to enamel erosion. The saliva in your mouth plays an important role in not only rinsing away bits of foods, but also keeping the pH of your mouth neutral. Without a sufficient amount of saliva, it’s possible for a very acidic environment to persist in your mouth. Finding the cause of your dry mouth is one step to improving it. You can also try drinking more water to moisten the inside of your mouth or try chewing gum with xylitol, which can help stimulate saliva production.
Caring for Your Teeth
How you care for your teeth can play a part when it comes to enamel erosion. When you brush and how you brush can make erosion worse. After eating or drinking acidic foods, it’s typically a good idea to wait about 30 minutes before brushing. Doing so will give your teeth time to bounce back from the exposure to the acid. If you brush too soon after eating acidic foods, you can make the damage to the enamel worse by brushing when the teeth are relatively fragile.
Brushing your teeth with too much force or pressure can also lead to erosion. Your dentist can let you know if he thinks you are using too much force when brushing and can give you pointers for brushing with a gentler hand.
Understand Treatment Options
While working to prevent or minimize enamel erosion is sufficient for some people, others might have sufficient erosion that they need an additional form of treatment to correct it. In that case, dental restorations such as bonding or crowns might be required to repair the damage. If the erosion is severe and affects much of the tooth, the best option might be to replace it completely, with an implant.
Dr. John Paul Gallardo is periodontist practicing in Miami who also perform implant dentistry and restorations. If you are concerned about the state of your enamel, or the state of your mouth in general, contact the periodontists for a consultation today. To schedule an appointment, call (305) 447-1447.