You wouldn’t think the toughest substance in your body would be prone to decay, but your tooth enamel is constantly grappling with the things you eat and drink. Despite being harder than bone, enamel can become weaker when you indulge in sugary foods or add a diet soda to your lunch. It’s no wonder it needs a little help to stay strong.
Although tooth enamel cannot be restored, certain products can actually repair small lesions that weaken your enamel, helping to ensure that your teeth can do their job in protecting your oral health. Here’s how.
Tooth Enamel Erosion
The things you eat and drink can have an effect on enamel strength, but it’s not the only culprit of weakened teeth. Acidic foods and caffeinated beverages do damage, but so does tooth grinding at night (called bruxism) and certain medications you may be taking – according to Ronald Perry, clinical professor at the Tufts School of Dental Medicine.
Luckily, enamel erosion is easy to identify. Teeth usually become discolored, sensitive when consuming hot or cold foods and higher in propensity for chipping or breakage. Enamel may be the strongest substance in the body, but once it begins to erode and decay, it can cause other problems as a result of these symptoms. It’s best to address enamel erosion as soon as you notice that your teeth don’t look or feel quite right.
Building It Back
Enamel is similar to bone in that once it’s gone, this lost portion can’t be retrieved. Because it’s impossible for your body to make new enamel, your goal should be to strengthen and repair the enamel you have. This can be done through a process called “remineralization.” By using products that contain fluoride and calcium, you can actually zero in on weak spots to strengthen existing enamel before it wears away for good. You can even fortify areas where enamel is already beginning to erode.
Fluoride works as a protective ingredient that, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), serves as a barrier between the foods and drinks you consume and your enamel – helping to keep it strong despite the more abrasive items in your diet. If the damage has been done, however, turn to toothpastes like Colgate® Enamel Health™ Sensitivity Relief, which contain minerals that help to replenish calcium back into the weak spots in your teeth enamel. This can essentially patch up areas where erosion has occurred to stop it from doing further damage, or removing enamel altogether.
Can weakened tooth enamel be repaired? Yes, as long as the erosion hasn’t caused it to disappear entirely. But keeping tooth enamel healthy is most effective when done through prevention. Using an enamel-strengthening toothpaste is a great first step, but you can also change some damaging behaviors to do your teeth a lasting favor. If bruxism is a problem, talk to your dentist about receiving a mouth guard to avoid enamel erosion as you sleep. You can also avoid acidic foods, or opt to drink soda or juice through a straw so it avoids your teeth. If you do indulge in sweet or acidic treats, sip water while you eat to help wash away particles that can cling to your teeth.
Lastly, keep in mind a medication you’re taking may be causing any ongoing enamel erosion (aspirin is a common issue). So, talk to your doctor. In some cases, you may be able to alter dosages or switch to a similar medication. And if you must stay on a current prescription, your doctor might suggest taking a calcium supplement to help your body protect your enamel in the process.
From food, to medication, to drinks and the daily grind, enamel can take a beating. But you don’t need to live with enamel erosion; the right products and care can help ensure your smile is as strong as it is healthy.