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What Is Tooth Enamel (and How It Gets Damaged!)
October 29, 2020
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Damaged Tooth Enamel

Your teeth are an incredible part of your body, and they are capable of amazing things. Teeth make it possible for you to chew and ingest solid foods, in addition to many other things, so long as they’re in working order.

Read on to learn all about tooth enamel, how it gets damaged, and what you can do to protect it.

The Anatomy of a Tooth

Teeth are relatively simple structures that will last a lifetime with proper care and repair when they become damaged. A tooth is composed of two main parts – the crown and the root. The crown is visible above the gum line while the root rests underneath the gum and is attached to the upper or lower jaw.

Four primary tissues make up a tooth:

Enamel – Tooth enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body and is one of the only non-regenerative tissues. Protecting tooth enamel is imperative because once your enamel becomes compromised, it is gone for good.

Dentin – Dentin surrounds and protects the nerves and blood vessels within a tooth. Unlike enamel, dentin regenerates over time. Loss of dentin is called dentinal sclerosis and can be caused by the hardening of small tubules within the dentin itself.

Cementum – Cementum coats the roots of the teeth and is responsible for keeping your teeth securely anchored to your jaw and gums. Cementum contains the highest fluoride concentration in hardened tissue, and the body regularly replenishes it.

Dental Pulp – Dental pulp is the living tissue that is found in the center of your teeth. It contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues. When tooth decay reaches the dentin of a tooth, the dental pulp then sends signals to your brain to alert you of an issue. This alert is communicated in the form of tooth pain. If left untreated, dental pulp will die, and the tooth typically dies with it.

The Two Types of Tooth Enamel Damage

Two types of damage can occur to tooth enamel – abrasion and erosion.

Abrasion is caused by something rubbing against the teeth and causing friction. For example, brushing your teeth with a hard-bristled toothbrush, brushing aggressively, or scraping your teeth when removing an oral appliance can all cause damage.

Erosion occurs when the tooth enamel is overexposed to dietary acids from certain foods and drinks or acids in the stomach that are regurgitated. Enamel can also be eroded due to toxins released by the plaque bacteria found along your gum line.

How Tooth Enamel Gets Damaged

To protect your enamel, it’s imperative to understand that tooth enamel acts as the first line of defense against tooth decay. Because enamel can be easily damaged, things like diet, medications, and overall health can impact tooth enamel’s lifespan.

Diet

Acidic beverages like soda, fruit drinks, and juices all contribute to enamel erosion. Some of the acids found in soda and juice can be more erosive to your teeth than car battery acid. Sugary foods and beverages feed on the bacteria that live on your teeth. As the bacteria consume these sugars, they produce acidic corrosion on your teeth.

Medications

Aspirin and vitamin C supplements have both been proven to erode tooth enamel. Some antibiotics, such as Tetracycline, can also cause enamel erosion.

Overall Health

When your body is healthy, it’s in a better position to fight off infection. Proper dental hygiene should be a part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Keeping your teeth cleaned by brushing and flossing each day will help to keep your tooth enamel strong and your overall health in excellent condition.

Trauma

Blunt forces of trauma can crack teeth and cause enamel to become damaged. Traumatic damage is considered a dental emergency and should be treated by your dentist as soon as possible.

Bruxism

Chronic teeth grinding, called Bruxism, wears down tooth enamel over time. Bruxism can be effectively treated with dental appliances called nightguards that cover the teeth. This helps to keep enamel damage to a minimum while you sleep.

How Dental Enamel Damage Is Treated

Tooth enamel erosion happens slowly. So slowly, in fact, that once you’ve come to realize there is an issue, the damage can already be quite extensive. Enamel erosion can lead to tooth sensitivity to hot and cold, discoloration pain, and indentations in the enamel.

Your dentist can detect enamel erosion during routine exams, which is why you must see your dentist twice a year. Keeping your teeth healthy with routine cleanings will help to keep your tooth enamel strong. Contact Hinsdale Dentistry today to schedule a tooth enamel exam and professional cleaning service.