Our bodies naturally have many self-healing properties. Remember that paper cut or canker sore that has plagued you in the past? Day-to-day, it’s easy for us to forget such things because our body naturally heals and recovers from these problems. That’s not the case for everything though and it’s especially not the case for the enamel on our teeth. Keep reading to find out how enamel works!
What Is Enamel?
Enamel is the hardest substance in our bodies. It is the outermost layer of our tooth and while it gives strength to our teeth, it is also very important as it protects the more delicate layers within our teeth. As a protective layer for dentin, enamel keeps us from being shocked by the cold air we breathe in during the winter months or the hot coffee that we drink each morning.
Every day our enamel layer is in a constant state of change known as mineralization. Every time we eat or drink anything, an acidic byproduct is created by the bacteria in our plaque. This acidity leads to a process of demineralization where minerals are removed from the enamel layer. Remineralization happens when our teeth are exposed to saliva and also some dental products containing minerals. In the process of remineralization, our teeth absorb fluoride, calcium, and phosphate minerals. Remineralization is a natural balancing system that our teeth constantly cycle through without us having to think about it.
The system is “balanced” for as long as the remineralization process is keeping up with the demineralization process. If demineralization occurs more often, our teeth fall into an imbalanced state where more minerals are lost than are taken up. This process over time can lead to enamel loss, often referred to as enamel erosion.
What Things Can Cause Enamel Loss Or Enamel Erosion?
We see how plaque can lead to enamel erosion; however, in most of these cases erosion from plaque can be controlled through routine brushing and flossing. Other leading causes of enamel erosion are:
- Excessive consumption of soft drinks and juices (many of which are high in acid)
- Xerostomia (dry mouth)
- Acid Reflux
- Certain medications (many medications cause xerostomia)
- Genetic predisposition
- Bruxism (teeth grinding) which leads to wear and tear on teeth
How To Know If You’ve Lost Enamel?
If enamel has been lost, your tooth is likely to be yellowish in that area because the dentin layer is now exposed. You might also know that you have lost enamel due to how your tooth feels. You may feel cold or hot sensitivity since the enamel is no longer fully protecting your tooth. If you are a clencher or grinder, you may notice that your teeth are flat on the top surfaces or that you have notches near the gumline.
Can Enamel Restore Itself?
Tooth enamel is not a living organism; therefore, it does not regenerate itself nor does enamel grow back. It is not like our hair or nails in that after so many days, months, or years, they replace themselves with new. We can see that through the remineralization process, enamel can be strengthened but this is not the same as being able to regenerate enamel. In the process of remineralization, the enamel structure may have been previously weakened but the structure is still present. The difference when comparing to enamel loss, is that the enamel structure has actually been lost and not just weakened.
What Options Are There to Enamel Loss and Restoring Tooth Enamel?
Prevention is of course always going to be the best option when it comes to this topic. Keeping your body balanced as far as demineralization and remineralization is the best option as it will keep you from experiencing enamel loss. Certain dental products and toothpastes can also help as a preventative measure by providing the minerals that your teeth need during remineralization.
If you find yourself with enamel loss, it is best to talk with your dentist about the best options for rebuilding your tooth where enamel has been lost. Restorative treatments may include a filling, a crown, a veneer, or even just a sealant. Browse through our website to learn more about restorative and cosmetic treatments.
Beyond restoring your tooth, it is also important to visit your dentist in regards to enamel loss so that they can help determine why enamel loss is happening. Finding answers to your enamel loss is very important so that you can be taking the best preventative measures for your dental health.
Are you concerned that you may have enamel loss? If so, come visit us and let our experienced dentist examine your teeth. It’s always better to catch enamel loss earlier than later.