How to Identify & Prevent Tooth Enamel Erosion

Posted on: 15 June 2015

Despite enamel forming only a thin coating over your teeth, it provides a tough barrier that protects them from damage when you chew, bite and consume hot or cold foods. However, if you damage the enamel on any of your teeth they are susceptible to decay as enamel does not regenerate on its own. Here's an overview of the causes and signs of enamel erosion and how to prevent it:

Causes

When you regularly consume acidic foods or suffer with chronic vomiting your mouth becomes acidic. Acidic saliva is corrosive and will gradually wear down the enamel on your teeth. A diet high in sugar will also lead to acidic saliva by increasing the amount of bacteria in your mouth. Everyone has bacteria in their mouth, but the amount of bacteria present can get out of control when you provide a welcoming environment. Sugar feeds the bacteria in your mouth and as it feasts and grows it produces acid as a waste product.

In addition to acid eroding your enamel, any action that can damage the surface of your teeth, such as grinding them, aggressive brushing or trauma that causes cracks or chips, will weaken the enamel and allow bacteria to penetrate your teeth.

Signs

In the early stages of enamel erosion you may not notice any signs, but as the problem progresses your teeth can become sensitive to hot or cold food and drinks. You may also notice your teeth don't look as opaque as they once did, the edges may appear rough and thin cracks can begin to show on tooth surfaces. When enamel erosion is severe, your teeth will look discoloured as a result of no longer being protected from the staining effects of  certain foods such as coffee, red wine, berries, and dark chocolate.

Prevention

There are several steps you can take to prevent tooth enamel erosion. Start by removing foods high in sugar from your diet and eating more foods that have an alkalising effect on your saliva such as leafy greens and whole grains. When you do indulge in a sweet treat, brush your teeth straight away and if that's not possible, rinse your mouth out with water to get rid of larger food particles.

You can also chew gum with xylitol in it after each meal. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that many dentists recommend as it's been shown to reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth, which in turn reduces the acidity levels. Bacteria levels peak just after you eat, so ask your dentist to recommend a gum for controlling the pH level in your mouth.

Lastly, if you grind your teeth during stressful periods or when you sleep, ask your dentist about using a protective mouthguard. A soft, plastic mouthguard can prevent your enamel from wearing down or chipping around the edges of your teeth, but you should only wear one that's been custom-made for your teeth. Mouthguards that can be bought over-the-counter can damage your teeth by altering their alignment and irritating your gum line.

Regular check-ups will allow your dentist to spot early signs of enamel erosion and treat the resulting decay promptly, so schedule an appointment with a clinic like Dental On Beaumont if you're overdue a check-up.

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