Do your teeth ever feel sensitive after drinking or eating something extremely cold? If so, it is possible that you may have tooth enamel erosion. Your tooth's enamel is extremely important as it protects your teeth from physical or chemical damage.
What is tooth enamel?
Each tooth is covered by a thin outer layer called enamel. This thin layer serves as protection. It also insulates your teeth in extreme temperatures and protects them from chemicals.
Stains on your tooth enamel
Tooth enamel is translucent and is the hardest tissue in your body. If you are a regular coffee drinker or smoker and have enamel loss, you might notice that your tooth enamel can get stained or colored by foods and drinks.
If you notice that you are prone to staining, you may need to prevent enamel loss. Routine polishing by your dentist or whitening treatments can easily remove these stains. It is also important to learn about the extent of your tooth enamel loss from your dentist.
Damaged tooth enamel and tooth decay
If your tooth enamel erodes, temperatures from foods and drinks can reach your nerves, leading to increased sensitivity. Your tooth enamel contains no living cells, which means that if you crack or chip your tooth, your human body will not naturally repair the enamel.
Because your body cannot naturally regrow your tooth enamel, it is extremely important to seek treatment in order to prevent the erosion from worsening. Daily dental habits and knowing the causes of harmful tooth enamel loss can also help in treating the issue.
Signs of tooth enamel loss
There are different stages to tooth enamel loss and depending on the stage that you are in, the signs might vary. Some common signs are:
Drinking or eating hot or cold foods can feel sensitive on your tooth surface or gums. This is usually seen in the early stages of enamel erosion.
The more that your enamel erodes, the more of your dentin is exposed to food particles and chemicals. Stained teeth can have a yellowish or brownish tinge.
Changes in appearance
Chips, cracks, or rough edges to your teeth may occur. You may also notice shine and smooth surfaces on your teeth which points to mineral loss.
In the later stages of erosion, your teeth might feel extremely sensitive to food and drink temperatures or certain foods. This sensitivity is a bit more intense and can be a sharp pain.
Erosion and tooth decay
While lost enamel may just seem like a mild inconvenience by causing tooth sensitivity and staining, it can actually cause more severe dental issues like gum disease or further decay. When your tooth enamel begins to erode, your teeth are not as well protected. This, in turn, can leave you prone to oral cavities or tooth damage.
Bacteria and decay can enter through your tooth surface in the small holes in your enamel. Once it enters the main body of your tooth, it can penetrate deeper and cause cavities, abscesses, or even infections. If you have signs of tooth enamel loss, get your oral health checked out by your dentist so that they can determine if you are at risk of tooth decay or cavities.
Causes of enamel erosion
The two main causes of enamel erosion are acids in your mouth and stress and wear and tear of your teeth. For some, enamel loss can also be genetic. If you have enamel erosion, becoming aware of the causes can allow you to avoid certain habits or foods.
Acids and enamel erosion
The following may increase the acids in your mouth, leading to enamel erosion:
Drinking sugary or fruit drinks
Soft drinks and fruit drinks contain a high amount of phosphoric and citric acids. In addition to the acids in the drinks, the bacteria in your mouth create more acids after thriving on the sugar in the drinks.
Candy and sour food
Citrus fruits and candies contain acids as well as sugars that increase the production of acid in your mouth.
Saliva washes away bacteria and leftover food in your mouth, preventing tooth decay. If you have low saliva production and frequent dry mouth, this can increase your risk.
If you eat certain foods with lots of sugar or starch or drink an excessive amount of alcohol, it can increase the acid in your mouth.
Conditions like acid reflux disease or gastroesophageal reflux disease can bring your stomach acid up to your mouth, damaging the enamel.
This eating disorder is characterized by binge eating and then vomiting. The stomach acid from vomiting erodes tooth enamel.
While taking medications can sometimes be necessary, be aware of how much Vitamin C, antihistamines, or aspirin you are taking. These medications can increase the acids in your mouth.
Tooth friction and erosion
It is not only acids that can cause enamel erosion. Wear and tear, everyday use of your teeth, and friction can cause enamel loss. This can include:
Clenching or grinding your teeth
Known as bruxism or teeth grinding, the friction caused when you grind your teeth together can cause your enamel to break down.
You may be brushing your teeth too hard, biting hard items, chewing tobacco, or flossing improperly.
Chips and cracks
Chipping or cracking your tooth can lead to enamel erosion.
How to repair damaged tooth enamel
While your tooth enamel is strong and resilient, there are instances where it may begin to erode. Luckily, the process of enamel erosion takes some time, and if you see the signs early, you can prevent further erosion.
However, there may be instances where you do not notice the weakened enamel. This can result in enamel damage and more dental issues, so it is imperative to prevent enamel erosion.
The risk of damaged enamel
Because tooth enamel has no living cells, it cannot regenerate itself. Your enamel will not grow back naturally, and your teeth are not protected. Damaged enamel can lead to more dental issues like cavities, tooth decay, or even tooth loss, so it is a good idea to repair your tooth enamel.
Strengthening weakened tooth enamel
Before your tooth enamel becomes completely eroded, it will likely become weakened first. You cannot reverse damaged tooth enamel, however, if your enamel is weakened, there are a few practices that you can do to stop further enamel damage.
If you notice that your tooth enamel is weak, try this:
- Examine your diet. Cut back on fizzy drinks, fruit juices, or other acidic foods.
- Try not to brush your teeth right after eating a meal.
- Gargle with mouthwash or water after eating acidic or sugary foods or drinks.
- Drink a lot of water.
- Chew some sugar-free gum.
- Maintain good oral health and properly brush with fluoride toothpaste.
- Stick with your regular oral care routine and see a dental professional regularly.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best treatment for tooth enamel loss?
When you visit your dentist to inquire about repairing tooth enamel, they will likely determine the extent of the erosion as well as the cause of the erosion. From there, your dental team can come up with the best course of treatment according to your situation.
Can you repair tooth enamel?
While your enamel cannot regenerate, you can repair tooth enamel. Depending on the extent of damage, your family dentist may suggest one of the following treatments:
Using a tooth-colored composite resin material, your tooth is covered completely and protected. The dental bonding will also likely improve the appearance of your tooth and can be used for cosmetic reasons.
Dental crowns or veneers
If you have a high level of tooth erosion, covering your affected teeth completely with dental implants will protect your tooth from decay. This method will also strengthen your tooth and prevent any decay.
This protective coating is very thin and sticks to your teeth. The layer that is applied can stop more enamel loss and is a good option for your back teeth.
How do you know if your tooth enamel is damaged or eroded?
Unfortunately, wear and tear and daily habits can cause enamel loss and damaged teeth. Tooth sensitivity and staining may be the first signs of tooth enamel erosion and can serve as a timely reminder to visit your dentist regularly and have your oral health checked.
Your tooth enamel protects your teeth from decay, cavities, and infections. While the enamel is resilient, once it erodes or is damaged, it cannot regenerate. Tooth enamel erosion can be caused by wear and tear, friction, and excessive acid in your mouth. If you notice any signs of erosion, consult with your dentist to see if you require tooth enamel erosion treatment or repair.