The outermost layer of the teeth is made up of enamel which protects them from chemical and physical damage. Tooth enamel is incredibly strong, and is the toughest tissue in the human body making it even harder than bone.
Enamel is prone to wear and tear as it is the teeth’s first line of defense against the many chemicals that they are exposed to from bodily fluids and food. This process of deterioration is referred to as enamel erosion.
Erosion of the enamel can cause such symptoms as tooth sensitivity and staining. While enamel cannot be regrown or repaired once it is damaged, there are many things you can do to prevent it from occurring or worsening.
What are the Symptoms of Enamel Erosion?
The signs and symptoms of enamel erosion can vary between cases, but they typically include the following:
- Increased Tooth Sensitivity to Textures, Taste, and Temperature
- Chips or Cracks in the Teeth
- Discolouration of the Teeth
- Indentations on the Teeth (referred to as ‘cups’)
If the enamel erosion is more severe, you may experience the following:
Extreme Sensitivity when Consuming Cold, Hot, Spicy, or Acidic Foods and Drinks
Significant Discolouration of the Teeth
If left untreated, enamel erosion can progress and lead to complications including:
- Stained, Yellow Teeth
- Excessively Sensitive Teeth
- Rough Edges or Shiny Spots on the Teeth
- Accelerated Tooth Decay
- Broken or Fractured Teeth
- Clear, Somewhat Translucent Teeth from Enamel Wear
What Causes Enamel Erosion?
The primary cause of enamel erosion is the acids that are in the foods and liquids we consume. Saliva works to continuously neutralize the acids in the mouth to protect the enamel of the teeth. But if too many acidic foods and drinks are consumed, and the teeth aren’t effectively brushed regularly, the outer layer of enamel will deteriorate as time progresses.
Enamel erosion is often the result of eating too much of the following foods:
Highly Sugary Foods – This includes foods such as ice cream, syrups, and chewy-sticky candies such as caramel and toffee.
Starchy Foods – This includes white bread, cereals, and pasta.
Highly Acidic Foods – Foods such as apples, citrus fruits, berries, and rhubarb.
Sugary & Acidic Drinks – Sodas, fruit drinks, and juices can negatively affect enamel.
Too Much Vitamin C – Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits and fruit juices.
Some of the other causes of enamel erosion include:
- Excessive Teeth Clenching or Grinding
- Dry Mouth or Low Salivary Flow
- Routine Use of Certain Medications (antihistamines and aspirin, for example)
- Eating Disorders (such as bulimia, which can disrupt the digestive tract and consistently expose the teeth to stomach acid)
- Some Genetic Disorders
Can Tooth Enamel Be Repaired or Grow Back?
While enamel is extremely tough, it is not made up of living cells so is not able to repair or regenerate itself after it has sustained chemical or physical damage. Enamel erosion can not be reversed or regenerated.
With that being said, enamel erosion takes a long time to result in significant damage. Even if you are experiencing some erosion of the enamel, it is possible to prevent it from worsening.
How is Enamel Erosion Prevented and Treated?
If you are experiencing substantial enamel erosion, your dentist can help in a variety of ways, including:
Tooth Bonding – This is a procedure that includes the application of a tooth-coloured material that is referred to as resin to the affected teeth. Resin works by protecting the teeth and improving the appearance of the teeth. Tooth bonding should be considered if enamel erosion has resulted in discolouration of the front teeth.
Crowns & Veneers – In more severe cases of enamel erosion, your dentist may recommend adding a crown or veneer to the damaged teeth in order to strengthen the teeth and prevent further decay.
Prevention – When it comes to enamel erosion, prevention is the best treatment. Even if your teeth have some enamel erosion, it is still possible to prevent it from worsening. Practicing a strong oral health routine is the best method of prevention. This includes brushing twice daily, flossing daily, and seeing your dentist every 6 months for routine checkups and cleanings. You can also ensure that you consume the foods and drinks listed above in moderation or not at all.
If you want to learn more about our services, how we can support your oral health or to book your appointment, contact our Guelph dentists office today!