You Won’t Find This Type of Enamel on Your Door Moldings

gum diseaseHere’s a question for you. What’s the hardest tissue in the human body? Now, if you’re on Venice Beach you’ll have plenty of muscleheads flexing and showing you their answer. But they’d be wrong.

Your tooth enamel is the hardest tissue on your body. There is no way you guessed that!

Tooth enamel consists mainly of minerals, primarily hydroxyapatite. It covers the crown, the part of the tooth that’s visible above the gumline. It is translucent, so you can see right through your enamel to the main portion of the tooth, the dentin, beneath it. The dentin is where your tooth color is dictated, whether it be white, off white, grey, or yellow.

Stains on your teeth from food and drink accumulate on the enamel, not in the dentin. Regular visits to Dr. Miller for your twice-yearly prophylaxis clean and polish most of those stains away. Tooth whitening also removes these stains from the enamel.

The protector

Enamel is basically like the Secret Service; its job is protection. Enamel protects your teeth during daily use. You don’t realize it, but things such as chewing, biting, crunching, and grinding create lots of force, and your enamel keeps that force from damaging the interior of the tooth. The enamel also insulates the teeth from potential painful temperatures and chemicals.

While your enamel is one tough customer, it can be damaged. It can crack or chip, but unlike bone cells, enamel has no living cells so once it is damaged the body cannot repair it. People think you can restore your enamel — some dental products even claim this — but you cannot. Once enamel is gone, it’s gone for good.

You don’t want enamel erosion

When you consider the fact that your enamel can’t rebuild, it’s wise to avoid the foods and beverages that cause enamel erosion. Although your tooth enamel is tough, like the hardest rock it can be eroded over time. Just ask the Grand Canyon! Acids are the usual culprits. Here’s a list of enamel eroders:

  • Excessive soft drink consumption (high levels of phosphoric and citric acids)
  • Too much sugar and starch in the diet
  • Fruit drinks (fruits have various acids, some very erosive)
  • Medications like aspirin and antihistamines
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Acid reflux disease
  • Genetics
  • Environmental factors (see below)

Environmental surface erosion

You can control the foods and drinks you consume; it’s harder to stop the environment surface erosion that is happening to your teeth. Friction, stress, general wear and tear, and corrosion can all combine to grind off the enamel from your teeth.

Abfraction —This is basically a stress fracture of the tooth caused by flexing or bending of the tooth. And you didn’t think you were that strong!

Abrasion — This is the wear from when you brush too hard, bite hard objects such as fingernails and pens, or chew tobacco.

Attrition — This tooth-to-tooth friction is called attrition. If you’re a night grinder, this is what you’re doing to your teeth.

Corrosion — This is the name for acidic contents hitting the enamel. Frequent corrosion takes off enamel.

Will I know when enamel has eroded?

Enamel erosion doesn’t happen overnight. There will be clues, but you have to be in tune with them to either stop your behaviors or change your diet. Sensitivity to sweets and temperatures can cause twinges of pain in the early stages of erosion. As it progresses, your teeth become discolored as more of the dentin is exposed. As enamel erodes the edges of your teeth can become rough and irregular. Severe sensitivity will come in the late stages.

Take care of your enamel and it will take care of your teeth. But, if your enamel has eroded, procedures such as dental bonding can cover damaged areas. Call Dr. Miller at 503-640-9310 if you notice any signs of enamel loss.


Posted in: Gum Diseases

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