What You Don’t Know About Your Teeth Can Hurt You

A recent survey out of the UK revealed that most folks don’t know a lot about enamel erosion – what causes it; how to prevent it. We suspect the results would be similar for Americans.

When asked about their knowledge of the health or lifestyle habits which could have a negative impact on their teeth just a fifth of respondents (22%) knew that it is all of the listed lifestyle habits that could damage the teeth…:

  • Drinking sports drinks (58%), acid reflux (42%), snacking throughout the day (41%), Bulimia (35%), and drinking sparkling mineral water (15%).
  • Equally concerning, only a third (37%) could list all the signs of dental erosion which could affect their teeth:
  • Tooth sensitivity (32%), tooth thinning (28%), tooth yellowing, (20%), tooth cracking (20%), or tooth transparency (17%).

So what should you know about enamel erosion?

Dental enamel is the hardest tissue in your body, protecting the softer, living tissues within each tooth. Normally, your saliva helps neutralize acids to maintain a healthy oral pH. It also continually delivers phosphate and calcium ions to the enamel to help keep it strong.

When saliva can’t keep up with the task, enamel can begin to deteriorate, to demineralize.

enamel erosion diagram

Now, if your body has access to the appropriate nutrients, demineralization can be reversed. But there’s a catch: It MUST happen before the enamel is damaged enough to expose the dentin beneath.

Once enamel is lost, it can’t be replaced. Your body has no way of growing it back.

Now, look back at the first bullet point above. All those causes of dental erosion share a common feature: They expose the enamel to acids.

Sports drinks? A double whammy of acids and sugars, just like sodas. Acid reflux and bulimia? Both expose the teeth to stomach acids. Grazing through the day? Constant exposure to sugars and fermentable carbs, which keeps oral conditions acidic as harmful bacteria feed on them and generate acidic waste. Sparkling water? Not as acidic as soft drinks, say, or fruit juice, but acidic nonetheless.

Importantly, these aren’t the only things that can lead to enamel erosion. Others include bruxing (grinding or clenching your teeth, often during sleep), low salivary flow/chronic dry mouth, and some medications.

Once enamel is lost and dentin is exposed, your teeth may become more sensitive to hot, cold, or sweet because nerves are also more exposed. Your teeth may be more prone to staining, as small pits and cracks in the enamel more readily trap pigments from the food and drink you consume.

Of course, if you see signs of such physical damage, you should have your dentist take a look as soon as possible; likewise, if you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity. We can help correct the issue.

The sooner you can recognize the signs of enamel erosion, the sooner you can make the necessary lifestyle changes and get the necessary dental treatments to stop that process in its tracks and save your teeth from more extensive – and expensive – damage.

Image by Liz20151222

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