Tooth enamel is the visible, outermost covering of the crown of your teeth. The colour of healthy enamel varies from light yellow to a grey or blue-like white. It’s the hardest substance in the human body and contains a high percentage of minerals. These minerals provide enamel with the strength it needs to protect the teeth.
What is tooth enamel made of?
Did you know?
Enamel has an average thickness of 2.58 mm. That is roughly one tenth of an inch, or the size of a thin wedding band or a key. Yet, it effectively protects the sensitive inner layers of teeth from the acids that can wear them away and cause painful cavities to form.
Enamel also protects the nerves and cells inside your teeth from exposure to hot, cold, and acidic foods that can lead to sensitivity.
Tooth enamel cannot be restored
Since tooth enamel contains no living cells, it lacks the ability to regrow. Once it’s damaged, it cannot regenerate—leaving the softer layer underneath exposed.
Acid found in foods and drinks is the leading cause of damage to tooth enamel. Many acidic foods and drinks that make up our everyday diet, like fruits and fruit juices, many types of salad dressings, coffee, wine and tomatoes, can weaken tooth enamel over time. This process is called acid erosion, and approximately 1 in every 3 young adults is already showing signs of it.
Other causes of acid erosion
The acid produced by oral bacteria, such as the bacteria in plaque, is another cause of acid erosion. When we eat or drink certain foods, the bacteria in plaque interact with the sugar to produce acid that attacks and demineralizes tooth enamel.
Normally, saliva helps to neutralize acidity and remineralize the tooth enamel. However, if enamel loses minerals faster than it can be remineralized, it weakens and becomes thinner over time. When this process happens, the sensitive inner layers of the tooth can decay and may need to be filled, repaired or even extracted by a dentist.
Keeping enamel strong is important to maintaining good oral health. By taking simple steps every day, you can help protect your teeth from the effects of acid erosion. Healthy, white teeth should start with strong enamel.
The Effects of Acid Erosion
You may not be able to see the effects of acid erosion yourself, but your dentist can check for early signs when they’re checking for tooth decay or gum disease.
Even if your teeth look healthy today, over time acids in everyday foods and drinks can still put enamel at risk. Here are 5 signs that you may be affected by acid erosion:
1. Rounded edges
The edges of your teeth are the most exposed to acid erosion, so will tend to be worn away first.
2. Dull or discoloured
As the enamel wears away, your teeth may lose their shine, making them appear dull.
If a significant amount of enamel is worn away from the tooth, the slightly yellow dentin layer underneath can become more visible.
Healthy, white teeth should start with strong enamel
4. Translucent or see-through
As more enamel wears away, teeth can become visibly thinner. As the enamel thins, the edges of your teeth can appear translucent.
As the protective enamel wears away, the underlying dentin layer can become exposed. This can be one of the causes of sensitivity.
How to Prevent Acid Erosion
When it comes to acid erosion, protection is your best bet. While acid erosion can’t be reversed, there are many things you can do to protect your tooth enamel – even if you already have signs of acid erosion.
Don’t swish, swirl or hold acidic drinks in your mouth for too long. If possible, use a straw to keep your teeth from coming into contact with acidic beverages.
Wait at least 30 minutes to brush your teeth after having acidic foods or drinks. By then, your enamel is no longer at its softest and most vulnerable
Brush your teeth with a soft bristled brush.
Brush your teeth twice a day every day to help protect against acid erosion.
Visit your dentist regularly and follow your dentist’s advice.
Cavities vs. Acid Erosion
Acid erosion and cavities are not the same, but they can both be harmful to teeth. Acid erosion is a form of tooth wear that is caused by acid softening the surface of the tooth enamel. Cavities are holes in the tooth created by bacterial decay. Here are some of the main differences between cavities and acid erosion:
They form when foods with sugar or starches are turned into acids by the bacteria in the mouth.
Over time, the acids in plaque can cause the enamel to break down and a cavity to form, which may require filling by a dentist.
Acid erosion can occur across the whole tooth surface that has been exposed to acid.
It is the result of the interaction of acids (either from food, drinks, or the stomach) on the surface of tooth enamel.
Acidic softening can weaken enamel over time, putting teeth at risk of thinning, yellowing, dullness, and making them more susceptible to sensitivity.
Even if your teeth are clean and healthy, you can still experience acid erosion.
Tooth enamel is irreplaceable, so acid erosion presents a risk to your oral health. Since it is not easily detectable to the naked eye, only a dentist can properly assess the effects of acid erosion on your tooth enamel.
Over time, acid erosion can lead to reduced enamel thickness and a change in the shape, texture, and appearance of your teeth. It can also cause your teeth to become sensitive.
Experience top-notch dental care and protect your tooth enamel at Evershine Dental. Our expert dentists provide comprehensive services to ensure your oral health and beautiful smile. Book an appointment now.