Our beautiful, bright teeth are a beacon of good health, shining from the center of our smile. But what happens when tooth enamel loss dims that light? No matter the cause, tooth enamel loss can affect not only the aesthetics of your smile but also the function of your teeth. Here’s what you need to know about how to restore tooth enamel.
What are common causes of tooth enamel loss?
Tooth enamel is the hard outer layer of the tooth that protects the soft inner pulp. It is the hardest mineral in the body, even stronger than the bones it protects.
But this does not mean it is impenetrable or invincible. Common causes of tooth enamel loss include the following.
- Excessive plaque
- Acidic, sugary, and starchy foods
- Abrasion (e.g., overbrushing and bruxism)
- Overuse of whitening products
- Acid reflux
- Xerostomia (on its own or as a complication of diabetes)
- Some medications (e.g., antihistamines and aspirin)
- Excessive, regular vomiting (as occurs with bulimia and binge drinking)
Worn teeth can lead to other conditions, such as teeth that are sensitive to cold, gum disease, and even infection and inflammation of the dental pulp.
While anyone can experience tooth enamel loss or enamel erosion, there are some risk factors to be aware of. Any condition that regularly brings stomach acid in contact with the teeth is a risk factor, as is regular and excessive consumption of alcohol. A diet high in sugary, starchy, and acidic foods increases your chances of tooth enamel loss.
Additionally, some medical conditions that lead to dry mouth can put you at risk for enamel erosion. This is because saliva is protective. It washes away acids and other damaging bacteria that can attack enamel.
What happens if tooth enamel is gone?
The first symptoms of tooth enamel loss are mostly aesthetic. Loss of tooth enamel on front teeth can show up as yellow or stained teeth with rough edges or shiny areas.
In any area of the mouth, you may also experience:
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Cracks or chips in teeth
- Indentations in the surface of the teeth (known as cups)
Gradually, teeth may become slightly clear, especially on the edges (and again most noticeable on the front teeth). You might find your tooth sensitivity spreading over a wide area of the mouth. You may also more sensitive to different tastes and textures.
Does tooth enamel grow back?
No matter what stage of tooth enamel loss you experience, treatment is important as soon as possible to prevent further loss. Tooth enamel, once damaged does not grow back. For this reason, once you realize your tooth enamel is vulnerable, take steps to prevent further erosion.
How to strengthen tooth enamel
Strengthening tooth enamel starts from the inside. A diet high in calcium-rich foods helps during the initial stages of tooth development and helps protect existing enamel.
Looking for recommendations? Dairy cheese stimulates saliva production to rinse the mouth. Other foods with calcium and phosphate (e.g., beans and leafy greens) can help remineralize remaining enamel. If dairy is a problem for you, there are plenty of other foods that are high in calcium. Focus on a healthy diet that includes whole grains, plenty of leafy greens, and lean proteins.
In addition to adding calcium-rich foods, consider limiting or eliminating food and drinks that damage enamel, like sugary sodas, citrus and citrus beverages, and alcohol. Citrus lovers, take note: an orange or grapefruit every now and then is okay. Just watch how much you consume, and how often.
Most people don’t want to think about saliva and its role in oral health, but the truth is that steady and regular saliva production is important to clear the mouth of damaging foods and bacteria. If you find yourself with a dry mouth, chewing sugar-free gum can stimulate saliva production. For chronic dry mouth as a result of an underlying medical condition or medication, use rinses and washes designed specifically to increase saliva production.
Finally, proper oral hygiene and care is crucial to prevent tooth enamel loss and strengthen what remains.
Even children over two years old can brush twice daily with a pea-sized dollop of fluoride toothpaste. Watch them carefully and remind them to spit out the bubbles as they brush. Brushing properly with a soft brush and flossing to remove all traces of bacteria can go a long way to prevent tooth enamel loss and protect your oral health.
If you are in the habit of overbrushing (i.e., brushing after every meal or snack), talk to your dentist about rinsing after meals instead. We often think more of a good thing would be even better, but it is possible to damage your teeth and gums with too much brushing. Judicious proper tooth brushing is key.
Can you rebuild tooth enamel?
To repair tooth enamel, dentists recognize that the best course of action in their office is to work to strengthen and protect whatever enamel remains. Special toothpastes and mouthwashes can help in a process called remineralization. While this is not actually growing new tooth enamel, remineralization adds a layer of protection to existing enamel.
Your dentist will also help identify the root cause of the enamel loss and treat what they can. If bruxism is contributing to tooth enamel loss, your dentist can fit you for a bruxism night guard. They can also help with proper tooth whitening and toothbrushing techniques. If the enamel loss is severe, they can also discuss cosmetic and restorative procedures for your smile.
If you have any symptoms of tooth enamel loss or just want a regular, all-around check-up of your teeth, let AZ Dentist help. Give us a call today to set up appointments for all of your family members!