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Tooth enamel is the protective outer covering of our teeth. Without enamel, the dentin, the inner portion of the teeth, would wear down easily. Even though enamel is strong, it can chip or break. Because it contains no living cells like bones do, tooth enamel cannot heal or grow back. Tooth enamel erosion can leave your teeth unprotected, which can lead to cavities, pain and tooth decay.

What causes tooth enamel loss?

Sometimes we harm our tooth enamel because of the food choices we make or how we brush our teeth. Acid in foods and beverages is a primary danger to tooth enamel. Even some healthy foods like citrus fruits and certain vegetables contain acids that can harm tooth enamel. After eating acidic foods, the enamel is softened, but it will recalcify or strengthen. This is why it is important to avoid brushing your teeth immediately after eating. Brushing too soon after eating can damage the softened teeth and harm the enamel, so you should wait at least 20 minutes after eating to brush.

Risk factors for enamel erosion

Taking certain medications can cause dry mouth, which can weaken tooth enamel because saliva helps to keep it strong. Tooth enamel can also be worn down by teeth grinding, so people with bruxism or chronic teeth grinding are at greater risk of enamel loss. Having malocclusion or a bad bite can cause excess wear on the surfaces of the teeth that overlap. Poor oral health can increase the likeliness of enamel erosion because plaque that remains on the teeth can produce acids.

Prevent enamel erosion

To keep your enamel strong:

  • Avoid eating too many sugary or starchy foods
  • Chew sugarless gum after meals to increase saliva flow
  • Brush regularly with fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride protects enamel, but you should check with the dentist about fluoride treatment because too much fluoride can cause problems with tooth enamel.
  • Drink water after meals to reduce acids that can weaken tooth enamel

Can enamel loss be treated?

When tooth enamel is gone, the teeth can be restored with dental crowns or dental bonding. Dental bonding covers damaged outer surfaces of the teeth and can help protect them. A crown covers the tooth entirely around its circumference and can completely restore a damaged tooth or protect a weakened tooth.

Learn more

If you have symptoms of tooth enamel erosion like visible cracks or chips in your teeth, sensitivity to hot and cold foods, pitting or indentations on your teeth or tooth staining, contact your Westminster dentist for a consultation appointment and exam.