Although tooth enamel is considered one of the hardest surfaces in the body, it can erode and compromise the integrity of tooth structure. Understanding the common factors affecting tooth enamel can help you maintain your oral health and the stability of your teeth during your lifetime. Keeping your natural teeth in place for as long as possible is important for many reasons and will affect your overall wellness and quality of life. Dr. Henrich can help you maintain your dental health and minimize your risk for enamel erosion through personalized dental care.
What Is Tooth Enamel?
Tooth enamel is the thin, hard coating that covers the surface of your teeth above the gum line or the crown. Its main purpose is to protect the dentin and pulp underneath which contain the nerves of your tooth. Working together, the enamel, pulp, and dentin form your natural tooth and provide chewing ability, normal sensation for hot and cold and give structure to your bite. Made of calcium phosphate, tooth enamel is a naturally hard substance that is also translucent. It can however become damaged, chip, and crack as a result of age-associated wear, lifestyle habits, medications, or trauma. When tooth enamel is damaged, you may experience a sudden sensitivity to hot or cold or tooth pain. This is because some of the dentin is exposed and allows the underlying nerve cells to be directly affected by eating, drinking, and daily life.
What Causes Enamel Erosion?
There is a range of factors and causes of tooth enamel erosion. They can range from genetic to environmental to lifestyle habits. Dr. Henrich will look for signs of erosion and tooth wear when you visit for routine dental care and can work with you to address them and avoid permanent damage. Common causes of tooth enamel erosion include:
- Abrasion and attrition: wearing down of tooth enamel that occurs from daily biting and chewing, teeth grinding, and teeth clenching.
- Plaque: if bacteria are able to remain on tooth surfaces as a result of poor oral hygiene, plaque can build up and begin to erode the enamel.
- Acidic foods and beverages: the acid in citrus foods and soft drinks will eat away at tooth enamel over time.
- Dry mouth: certain medications and medical conditions can lead to a reduced production of saliva, which keeps the tooth enamel coated in protective minerals and helps to remove harmful acids and bacteria.
Can Tooth Enamel Be Restored or Replaced?
Unfortunately, once tooth enamel is gone or damaged, the result is permanent. In situations where erosion is identified at an early stage, Dr. Henrich can recommend products to help stop progression and remineralize areas of erosion. He may also recommend changes in certain lifestyle habits causing erosion.
If your tooth enamel has become damaged or severely eroded, there are restorative dental treatments that can be placed to protect the remaining tooth structure and support long-term dental health. These can include dental crowns, tooth bonding, and dental veneers.