Enamel is the hard outer layer that protects your teeth. It's strong, but it's not indestructible. You may already know that it can be cracked, chipped, or broken, but it's less well known that enamel can also erode. Here's what you need to know about enamel erosion.
What causes enamel erosion?
Your enamel can be worn away by your everyday activities. Common causes are abrasion from overzealous tooth brushing and acid erosion from some types of popular drinks.
How can tooth brushing hurt enamel?
Many people use more force than they need to when they brush their teeth. As many as 20% of people have damaged their enamel by brushing too vigorously, according to dentists. Plaque is very soft, so you don't need to scrub aggressively to remove it. Brushing lightly for 2 to 3 minutes is all that's necessary to remove plaque and get your teeth clean. Dentists also recommend using a soft-bristled toothbrush to minimize damage to your enamel.
How can drinks hurt enamel?
The acid content of some of your favorite drinks can also be responsible for wearing away your enamel. Water is the only drink that isn't able to hurt your teeth, since it has a neutral pH of 7.0. Drinks with a pH of between 5.5 and 7.0 are considered safe for enamel. Here are the pH levels of some popular drinks:
- Cranberry juice: 2.3
- Soda: 2.5
- Grape juice: 2.8
- Iced tea: 2.97
- Orange juice: 3.3
- Coffee: 5.51
- 2% Milk: 6.8
- Water: 7.0
- Tea: 7.2
Try to choose drinks with a safe pH level as often as possible. If you want to have a drink with a dangerous pH level, like cranberry juice, make sure to rinse your mouth with water afterwards. If the acids are allowed to remain on your teeth, your enamel could be in danger.
What are the symptoms of enamel erosion?
Enamel erosion changes both the look and feel of your teeth. As the enamel wears away, your teeth will start to look yellow. This is because the dentin, the tissue beneath your enamel, has a natural yellow color. The dentin is also quite sensitive, so you will notice that your teeth hurt when you eat or drink certain foods. Hot and cold foods and drinks are common culprits, but sweet or sour foods can also bother sensitive teeth.
Your teeth can also take on a rounded appearance. This happens when the enamel wears away around the edges of your teeth. As the erosion gets worse, you'll start to see indents in your teeth where the enamel is missing, and eventually, the enamel will wear down enough to crack.
Enamel erosion also leads to cavities. This is because it's hard to clean the indents that form in your teeth as the enamel wears away, and bacteria will accumulate in these places.
Can enamel erosion be reversed?
Tooth enamel can't regrow, so once it's worn away, it's gone for good. This is why it's important to prevent enamel erosion from happening in the first place. If your enamel is already starting to erode, you need to change your habits right away to keep it from getting worse. While enamel erosion can't be reversed, the situation isn't hopeless, and can be remedied by a trip to the dentist.
How do dentists repair enamel erosion?
Dentists can't repair your enamel, but they can replace it. An easy way to do this is by applying veneers. Veneers are made of either porcelain or composite material, and fit over top of your existing teeth. They will cover your worn enamel, restoring both the appearance and the feel of your teeth.
Enamel erosion is a serious problem, but your dentist can help you fix it. If you think you have this problem, make an appointment with your dentist right away.
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