Teeth serve an important role in a person’s survival. It breaks down nutritious food into consumable bits so the body can process it and draw its needs from it. Other than food’s essential role for the body’s survival, it provides pleasure especially to foodies out there. However, not everyone does a good job of taking care of their teeth.
Even as simple as practicing good oral hygiene is a hit or miss on some days. Although many have a general idea of what the consequences are, it’s good to know about the extent of damage and what that means for the future of their teeth–especially the enamel.
Tooth enamel is a very important part of teeth, as it is its first line of defense against acid and other harmful substances.
What Is Tooth Enamel?
Enamel is the tooth’s outermost coating. It is known to be the hardest substance in the body, though it’s not easily noticeable. Enamel looks to be a soft beige to white tint, however, it is semi-translucent, enabling the dentin layer’s color to show through.
Even if it’s the hardest substance of the body, it’s no exception to damage and deterioration. Similar to any other part of the body, if neglected it’ll break down and stop functioning effectively.
Why Is Tooth Enamel Important?
As the hardest substance in the body, the enamel functions as the dental crown’s wear-resistant outer covering. It is the first defense of your teeth. It acts as an insulator, shielding the tooth from physical, thermal, and chemical pressures that would otherwise harm the important tissue of the underlying dental pulp.
Because enamel is exposed to the acid found in both food and drinks, it can sustain some wear and tear. This is where enamel erosion comes in. Enamel erosion is the process of enamel wearing away and eventually disappearing. The dentin beneath the enamel is exposed when the enamel is worn away, which can cause pain and discomfort.
What Are the Symptoms and Causes of Enamel Erosion?
In most cases, the problem isn’t detected until it’s done its damage. To get ahead of the problem, watch out for the early symptoms of erosion. Have you noticed how some people (especially those that have not had their teeth whitened) have more yellow teeth than others? As the dentin, the part that is protected by the enamel, is exposed, the yellower the teeth appear. This discoloration can indicate that the enamel is slowly thinning, exposing the dentin.
This can also lead to tooth sensitivity, which means cold and hot temperatures can already cause noticeable pain or discomfort. Additionally, as the enamel wears away it gives the teeth a rounder look. The ridges become flatter, and the edges appear rounder. The teeth can have a sandblasted appearance in the early stages of tooth erosion, and the tips of the front teeth can appear translucent. The pitting indicates that the enamel is beginning to erode.
If these signs are left alone and ignore, the symptoms may advance with more discomfort and pain. Advanced symptoms will take place. During these stages, the edges of the tooth will crack and acid and bacteria will penetrate the tooth. This leaves the teeth vulnerable to cavities. To add, irregular cupping on biting areas of the teeth and extreme sensitivity may be experienced.
Enamel erosion can be caused by a multitude of things a person consumes. Some of which are sugary foods (e.g. Ice cream, syrups, and caramel), starchy foods (e.g. bread, pasta, cereals), acidic foods (e.g. lemons, grapefruits), fruit drinks, juices, sodas, and too much vitamin C found in citrus fruits. However, its causes aren’t limited to foods and drinks. Teeth grinding, chronic acid reflux, low salivary flow, eating disorders, and certain medications can contribute to enamel erosion.
How Can Enamel Erosion Be Prevented?
Knowing what contributes to enamel erosion, it’s best to consume these foods and drinks in moderation. Moreover, for underlying health conditions and adherence to certain medications, consulting a professional is advised.
Needless to say, good dental hygiene adds a lot to its prevention. Brushing, flossing, and rinsing your mouth regularly is greatly encouraged as this helps prevent other dental issues too. In cases wherein teeth have already sustained damage, your dentist might recommend tooth bonding. To prevent additional decay, your dentist may apply a veneer or crown to your damaged teeth if the case is severe. Depending on the material, ask your dentist for advice on treatments for porcelain veneers, ceramic veneers, and composite veneers.
The best method to deal with enamel erosion is to avoid it in the first place. But if some symptoms have surfaced and some damage has been done, it’s not too late to prevent the worse from happening. Continue practicing good oral hygiene and see your dentist regularly.