Tooth enamel plays an important role in protecting your teeth, so it's important to keep it healthy. However, everyday acids that you have in our mouth can put your enamel at risk. The foods you eat and drink have bacteria that leave teeth constantly under attack and before long enamel can suffer permanent damage.
The role of tooth enamel
Did you know tooth enamel is the hardest mineral substance in your body?1 This highly mineralized substance is even harder than bone. It’s also the most visible part of your teeth. Tooth enamel varies in color, but most range from a light yellow to grayish-white. It is also semi-translucent, which means it's not fully responsible for the color of your teeth.2
Damage to tooth enamel
There are two types of tooth damage that can affect your tooth enamel: erosion and abrasion. Erosion occurs when your tooth enamel is overly exposed to acids from certain foods and drinks.3 Acid reflux sufferers are also at risk for enamel damage due to the regurgitation of acids from the stomach.4
Abrasion is the loss of tooth enamel as a result of something rubbing against your teeth. Here are a few scenarios where abrasion may occur:5
- Incorrectly brushing your teeth
- Using your teeth to open a bottle
- Poking your teeth with toothpicks
- Biting your nails
- Tongue jewelry hitting against your teeth
- Scraping your teeth with retainers or partial dentures
Rebuilding tooth enamel
Unfortunately, tooth enamel damaged by either erosion or abrasion is not restorable. Once your tooth enamel is gone, it’s gone for good. This is because tooth enamel has no living cells, so it cannot repair itself from decay or wear. Only a dentist can repair tooth enamel after it's damaged.6
How do I know if I have enamel damage?
If you think you have tooth enamel damage, there are a few signs you can look for:7
- Tooth pain
- Increased sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods
- Cracks and dents in teeth
- Transparency near the edges of the teeth where you bite
- Rough around the edges
Overall, the only way to truly know if tooth erosion is occurring is by going to your dentist.
How to rebuild tooth enamel
Once you've found a dentist and they've confirmed that you have enamel damage, then treatment can begin. Your dentist will focus on rebuilding the structure of your tooth, which should then protect it from additional damage.
If you have significant damage, your dentist will likely suggest bonding. For this procedure, a tooth-colored resin material is applied to the damaged tooth. The resin helps cover up discolorations, closes gaps between teeth, and adjusts the shape of a damaged tooth.8
Another method that could help you maintain or rebuild your tooth enamel is sealants. A sealant is a thin, protective coating that sticks to your teeth. They're great for your molars or back teach because leftover food and bacteria like to hang out back there. A sealant can be an extra layer of protection to stop enamel loss and tooth decay. Plus, they're safe for children.10
How to restore tooth enamel naturally
Although damaged enamel isn't salvageable, weakened tooth enamel is. Practicing good oral hygiene and remineralization can go a long way. If the cause of your weakened tooth enamel is dental erosion, you can try the following:11
- Consume fewer acidic foods
- Reduce the frequency of drinking carbonated drinks and fruit juices
- Avoid brushing your teeth immediately after eating
- Rinse your mouth with water after consuming acidic or sugary foods/beverages
- Chew sugar-free gum
- Brush with fluoride toothpaste
- Stay hydrated
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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. It is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.