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Confronting Enamel Erosion

Enamel is the thin outer layer that covers the crown of each tooth and protects it from chewing, biting and grinding. It insulates your teeth from hot and cold temperatures and from chemicals. Enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body! That doesn’t mean it can’t be damaged. Enamel can erode.

Why worry about enamel erosion?

The loss of tooth enamel makes your teeth more susceptible to tooth decay, cavities, tooth loss, infection, gum disease and painful abscesses. Teeth deteriorate very quickly without their protective coating!

 What causes enamel erosion?

There are many factors that contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel.

  • Inadequate brushing: not brushing long, often and thoroughly enough or brushing too hard
  • Ingesting sugary, sticky foods and beverages: that become trapped between teeth (candy, dried fruit, cake, etc.)
  • Consuming acidic foods and beverages: that eat away at your tooth enamel (soda, coffee, citrus fruit, etc.)
  • Frequent snacking: provides more time and fuel for bacteria to create acid and attack your teeth
  • Lack of fluoride: a naturally occurring mineral that helps strengthen enamel and can reverse early tooth damage
  • Dry mouth: a lack of saliva to wash away food and plaque and counter the acid produced by bacteria
  • Worn dental devices: poorly fitting devices trap food allowing decay to begin beneath them
  • Heartburn: acid reflux can cause stomach acid to flow into your mouth eroding tooth enamel
  • Medications: such as aspirin and antihistamines
  • Eating disorders: frequent vomiting can cause erosion of the front teeth
  • Biting hard objects: such as bottle caps, pens, and fingernails
  • Clenching or grinding your teeth

How can I tell if my enamel is eroded?

The signs of enamel erosion vary. If you have several of the following indicators you may have damaged enamel.

  • Sensitivity: to hot, cold, and sweet foods and beverages
  • Transparency: teeth look transparent near the biting edges
  • Discolouration: teeth may appear yellow as enamel wears away and the dentin is exposed
  • Cracks, chips and cupping: the edges of the teeth become rough, irregular and jagged and small indentations appear on the surface
  • Severe pain: when enamel is deeply eroded even a breath can cause a painful jolt

How can I avoid enamel erosion?

It may sound bleak but there are many ways you can prevent or reduce enamel erosion. Brush twice a day with a soft bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste. Change your brush every 3 to 4 months as new bristles remove plaque more efficiently. Floss daily and use a fluoride mouthwash. Use a straw to keep acidic and sweet beverages away from your teeth. Snack wisely; try an apple or sugar free gum. Sip on green or black teas as they inhibit bacteria and slow the growth of plaque. Reduce consumption of highly acidic foods or rinse your mouth with water immediately after eating them. Ask your dentist about sealants; a plastic material painted on vulnerable teeth as a barrier to protect against erosion. If you grind your teeth at night, ask your dentist about a mouth guard. See your dentist regularly. She can detect erosion and assist before it becomes advanced.

What do I do if I already have enamel erosion?

If the damage is minor, your enamel will renew itself! Using the nutrients in saliva (phosphorus, Vitamin D, Vitamin K2, magnesium, calcium) and fluoride from toothpaste, your teeth will regenerate a small amount of enamel through a process called remineralization. You can assist by eating foods that are high in these vitamins and minerals. If the erosion is more substantial, see your dentist. She will have advice on how to prevent further deterioration and repair damage. Sometimes tooth bonding is used to protect teeth with significant enamel loss. Your dentist may suggest crowns or veneers. 

Dental erosion affects everyone! Your dentist can recommend the right products and encourage good habits to help ensure your teeth remain strong and healthy. If you need advice about enamel erosion and dental health call Centennial Smiles at (587) 317‑7959.

New Patients: (587) 317‑7959
Existing Patients: (587) 353‑5060
Email: info@centennialsmiles.ca

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