Enamel erosion is caused by exposure to acids or physical friction that literally rubs away your teeth’s protective covering How is it caused and how can I treat it?
What is Enamel Erosion and What Can I Do About It?
A tooth’s outermost covering is called enamel. This translucent layer is thin but, extremely strong. In fact, it is the hardest tissue in the human body.
Enamel acts as a protective shell for your teeth. It guards against everyday wear that your teeth endure like chewing, grinding and biting. Even though enamel is tough, it can crack, chip or wear away. It contains no living cells which mean it cannot repair itself so, once it’s gone, the damage is permanent.
Enamel erosion is caused by exposure to acids or physical friction that literally rubs away your teeth’s protective covering.
You may not be able to restore it but, there are steps you can take to prevent more from being worn away and, to protect your teeth once the enamel has started to wear.
- Stay Hydrated – Saliva contains minerals such as calcium and phosphate which maintain and protect your teeth’s enamel whenever you feel thirsty. It’s your body telling you your hydration levels are low and it does this by reducing the amount of saliva in your mouth. When your mouth has less saliva, your enamel and teeth are more vulnerable. To quickly increase your mouths production of saliva, you need to chew! – chewing gum between meals will help stimulate saliva production.
- Beware of Carbonated Drinks and Fruit Juices – Fizzy drinks (including diet/sugar free types) and fruit juices may taste great but they are not good for your teeth. Both types of beverages contain a plethora of acids, some of which such as citric and phosphoric acid are more corrosive to your enamel than battery acid and can do serious damage to the enamel especially if already worn. If you want to keep your enamel intact, consume these drinks in strict moderation and ideally through a straw and rinse your mouth with water immediately afterwards.
- Don’t brush immediately after acid foods/drinks – Regular brushing and flossing is the best way to prevent oral health problems however, some acids in certain food/drinks can temporarily soften the enamel. What this means is, because your enamel has been softened, you could easily wear it away if you brush whilst it is still soft. Ideally, wait at least an hour before brushing after you have had acidic foods.
- Swim with your mouth closed – Interestingly, chlorine used to kill harmful bacteria in swimming pools also happens to be highly acidic. A recent study showed that chlorine had damaged the teeth in 77% of a test group of 500 regular swimmers so; swim with your mouth closed and avoid your toothbrush for an hour after you take a dip!
- Keep stomach acid in your stomach – The acid produced in your stomach to aid digestion is extremely erosive to teeth. If you have problems with acid reflux, see your GP to help reduce/eliminate it. Eating disorders such as bulimia or illness, which cause repeated vomiting, may also result in enamel erosion
- Chew gum between meals – Foods high in starch (such as rice, pasta, bread) or sugar (cakes, biscuits, sweets, cereals or breakfast bars) leave your mouth intensely acidic for a couple of hours after you have eaten. Since most of us regularly consume starches/sugars, our enamel is often under constant assault. Chewing gum after and between meals elevates saliva production which helps to neutralise acids and strengthen enamel. In particular, look for a sugar free gum which contains xylitol an ingredient that rapidly diminishes the acids found in foods/drinks.
- Use the right toothpaste – Some whitening toothpastes contain course materials which help to lift stains but, may cause more harm than good if used on already weakened enamel especially, if used in conjunction with a power toothbrush. Choose toothpaste containing fluoride and one which promotes enamel health. There are many on the market, often geared towards sensitivity as, often than not, erosion and sensitivity go hand in hand. Take time to choose the right one for your symptoms.