Enamel is the outermost part of the tooth. Stronger even than bone, tooth enamel protects the sensitive nerves and blood vessels inside the teeth that keep them alive and rooted in your mouth. Without enamel, teeth would be far more sensitive and vulnerable, making chewing an exercise in torture rather than a method for improving swallowing and extracting nutrients from food. However, despite its hardness, enamel is also surprisingly fragile and is very susceptible to wear and other types of damage. This makes the most powerful part of the tooth the part which you should care for the most.
Tooth enamel protects the tooth from the daily grind, so to speak. Foods erode away at your teeth as you chew and swallow, while grinding your teeth puts a lot of pressure on them. These would weaken the internal structure of the teeth and cause major damage that could lead to infections and breaking. These in turn lead to pain and possibly serious damage to your mouth. The enamel protects against this by shielding the sensitive dentin, the most abundant part of the tooth, and preventing it from eroding away immediately. The harder enamel takes damage in its place. However, like any shield, the enamel can only take so much before it, too begins to wear away. Even worse, enamel cannot replace itself. Enamel is therefore like a suit of medieval armor: strong and protective, but once it is pierced, the body it protects is exposed to damage. The process of wearing down tooth enamel is called “tooth erosion”. This is caused by sugars and acids in foods and drinks, dry mouth, acid reflux, certain medicines, weakness due to inherited flaws, and the force of grinding.
Restoring the Shield
Enamel cannot be restored by natural means because it is not a living part of the tooth. You can tell when enamel has eroded if you feel sensitivity in your mouth, see discoloration in the tooth, or if your dentist notices cracks, chips, or indentations in your teeth. These indicate severe loss of tooth enamel and require immediate attention. These lead to the ever-dreaded cavities as well as a host of other oral issues that can lead to tooth loss or dental surgery. Brushing and flossing regularly is the most efficient way to prevent this situation at home, and visiting your dentist every six months will ensure that your teeth remain strong. Mouthwash with fluoride is also a very effective means of protection, though overuse of fluoride products (remember that we drink it in our water, too) can lead to defects in the enamel. By providing yourself with the coverage to prevent enamel loss, your smile will never lose its luster.
Olney Dental can answer all of you questions about tooth enamel and other oral health topics. Call us at (301) 250-1057 or contact us online for an appointment. Also, visit Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and YouTube to connect with us.