Know someone who’s Mr. Smart Guy, seemingly knowing something about everything? Maybe he didn’t go to Princeton, but he lives there and thinks it has rubbed off on him. Well, you want to stump that guy? Then ask him this question:
What is the hardest tissue in the human body?
He’ll probably say something like the femur or the skull. Nope. Hopefully you bet him five bucks.
The answer is — your tooth enamel is the hardest tissue on your body. At Gentle Dental, we all know that, and we don’t live anywhere near Princeton!
Tooth enamel covers the crown of the tooth, the part that is visible above the gum line. It is comprised for the most part of minerals, primarily hydroxyapatite. 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 what gives your teeth their color, not the enamel.
But stains on your teeth from food and drink accumulate on the enamel, not in the dentin. Regular visits with the team at Gentle Dental for your twice-yearly prophylaxis (you could stump Mr. Smart Guy with that word for professional tooth cleaning) clean and polish most of those stains away. Tooth whitening also removes these stains from the enamel.
Like a bodyguard without the roid rage
Like the muscleheads surrounding a crime boss, your enamel’s 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.
Although it is incredibly strong, your enamel can still 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. Kind of like your youth!
Leave the erosion to the Shore
When you consider the fact that your enamel can’t rebuild, it’s wise to avoid the foods and beverages that cause enamel erosion. Here’s a list of enamel eroders:
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Acid reflux disease
- Too much sugar and starch in the diet
- Fruit drinks (fruits have various acids, some very erosive)
- Excessive soft drink consumption (high levels of phosphoric and citric acids)
- Medications like aspirin and antihistamines
- Environmental factors such as bruxism
Will I know when enamel has eroded?
Unlike a crack or chip to your tooth, enamel erosion doesn’t happen quickly. There will be clues. We’ll see them during your exams, but you’ll also need to pay attention. 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.