What is Enamel Erosion?
Enamel is typically the hard, white, calcified substance that covers the crown of a tooth. Its work is to offer a shield against what we eat and drink, hence reducing the chances of developing cavities.
Enamel erosion is a state where the enamel cover wears away wholly or partially, leaving the tooth exposed. When the enamel erodes, the underlying dentin (yellowish in color) becomes more visible. In this state, no whitening treatment can help, as it’s the enamel that makes the teeth white.
How Does Enamel Get Worn Out?
Despite being the hardest part of a tooth, enamel has one fundamental weakness – a delicate pH of 5.5.
Notably, the enamel is made of carbonated calcium hydroxyapatite, and it depends on saliva (a base) to neutralize acids from the food and drinks we consume. Saliva also helps in replacing lost or weak phosphate and calcium ions, which further maintains the strength of the enamel.
At any point, if you lack enough saliva to neutralize the acids, then enamel erosion may occur. It may also occur due to old age.
Medical Conditions That May Cause Enamel Erosion
The two most common medical causes of enamel erosion are frequent vomiting and acid reflux. This is due to the fact that they expose the teeth to the harsh stomach acid and bile, which may affect the pH of the enamel.
Teeth grinding is another cause of enamel erosion. Basically, grinding your teeth generates friction, which consequently wears down the enamel. So if you find yourself doing it, consult an experienced dental expert to get a diagnosis and timely solution.
Additionally, tone down on acidic fruits, foods and drinks on your diet, as they may accelerate enamel erosion. Notable examples include sweet tea, sodas, lemon, pineapple, oranges and spicy foods.
Brushing At The Wrong Time
You may be tempted to brush your teeth soon after taking an acidic food or drink. However, you will actually be doing more harm than good!
This is mainly because the enamel is more delicate and vulnerable to erosion just after exposure to acidic substances. You are therefore advised to wait for 30 minutes (or more) to allow your mouth to produce enough saliva to neutralize the acids, and remineralize your teeth.
Symptoms and Possible Treatments for Enamel Erosion
Common symptoms of enamel erosion include cavities, teeth sensitivity and discoloration. Immediately see an experienced dental expert soon as you experience these symptoms, to get a clear picture of your situation and advise on the way forward. However, don’t expect the enamel erosion to be reversed, since the enamel contains no living cells.
Nonetheless, your dentist may recommend certain lifestyle changes and dental procedures to manage your situation. For instance, they may advise you to only use fluoride-containing toothpaste and mouthwash.
Medical procedures such as veneers, crowns and cosmetic dental surgery may help in relieving sensitivity, and keep the teeth looking white. Fillings may also be a way forward if your enamel is worn out at the gumline.