Did you know that tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body? It is even harder than your bones. This does not make it invincible, though.
Enamel is so hard because it has to withstand everything we put in our mouths and the strong forces required to chew. There are several important things you must do to keep your enamel healthy so that it can do its job throughout your entire life.
Cavities are the most common problem destroying enamel. A cavity is a bacterial infection of the enamel and dentin (the core of the tooth). Bacteria soften and penetrate enamel to get inside the tooth.
In order to fight cavities, you need to do several important things.
- Keep up with great oral hygiene at home! This means brushing twice a day with the right technique. It also includes flossing every single night! Do not miss a night of flossing. Use an anti-cavity fluoride mouth rinse after brushing and flossing to add strength to your enamel. Also, use any additional tools or tips given to you by your dental hygienist to keep any high risk areas as clean as possible.
- Never miss a professional teeth cleaning! Your dental hygienist’s specialized training enables him or her to remove any sneaky hiding spots of bad bacteria in your mouth. Hygienists also give the best education on how to clean your teeth well. They will spot the areas you are missing or that happen to be particularly high-risk for cavities. Oral hygiene is not a one size fits all approach! You need specific recommendations for your own unique needs. Our awesome hygienists will give you that!
- Never miss a dental check-up! With consistent check-ups, your dentist is able to spot warning signs or red flags of potential cavities. You simply cannot prevent dental problems without consistent dental visits. Our dentists will give you tools to fight cavities, like professional fluoride treatments.
- Reduce the sugar in your diet, especially in beverages. Sugar feeds the bad bacteria in our mouths that cause cavities. Sugar is directly linked to tooth decay, and a diet high in refined carbohydrates is one of the most common causes of cavities. By limiting your sugar intake, you lower your cavity risk significantly.
- Don’t sip on sugary or acidic drinks all day. The food and drink habits we have in between meals are actually more likely to cause cavities than what we eat and drink during normal mealtimes. Sipping on a sugary coffee drink or a soda throughout your morning at work or as you run your afternoon errands makes it easier for those bacteria to cause cavities.
If you follow these five simple rules, your risk for cavities will drop, and you will win the fight!
Fight Acid Damage!
Acid erosion of enamel is a very common, but lesser known, cause of enamel damage. Just as acid can soften and etch glass, it can weaken and damage tooth enamel. Strong acids are capable of completely eroding away all of the enamel on a tooth.
Patients with severe acid reflux or frequent vomiting show signs of erosion on the inside of their teeth. People who have bad habits like sucking limes or lemons have enamel loss on the outside or visible surface of their teeth.
Acid is bad news for enamel! Here are some ways you can fight it.
- Drink water! Drinking plenty of water throughout the day helps keep a neutral pH in your mouth and fights the damage of acid.
- Treat problems with dry mouth. If your mouth is dry, the pH is acidic. Our saliva has a neutralizing pH, and without it, the mouth becomes more acidic. This predisposes the teeth to acid damage. Unfortunately, drinking water alone is not enough to treat dry mouth. Talk to your dentist about some medications and supplements that can help replace natural saliva.
- Chew sugar-free gum between meals. Chewing a flavored gum stimulates saliva production, which helps neutralize the mouth. Make sure it is sugar free!
- Avoid acidic drinks between meals. The list of acidic drinks is long! Pretty much everything besides water is acidic, and even some bottled waters are acidic. The biggest, baddest culprits in acidic beverages are sodas (even diet sodas), sports drinks like Gatorade, and sparkling waters. Another major contribution to an acidic pH in drinks is adding lemon juice. Many people add lemon or lime juice to water and tea. This drastically lowers the pH and drastically increases the risk of acid damage.
- Treat GI problems like acid reflux and consistent vomiting. Stomach acid is extremely acidic and NOT safe for tooth enamel. Bringing this acid up into the mouth via reflux or vomiting is very bad for your teeth. If you suffer from GERD, hyperemesis, or any other GI problems that could make your mouth acidic, talk to your doctor about treatment.
These steps may be a little tougher to follow as they involve treating some medical conditions. We understand that not everything is under your direct control. We just know that following them will help you fight acid damage!
Fight Wear & Cracking!
This category will encompass two different dental problems that we commonly see in patients with healthy teeth and a low cavity risk: 1) Attrition, which is the slow, gradual wearing away of the biting surface of teeth, and 2) Tooth cracks or fractures, which break the continuous structure of enamel and allow bacteria to penetrate more easily.
In general, both of these dental problems are caused by the same things: bad habits and bruxism. Bruxism is the often unconscious habit of clenching and/or grinding of the teeth. It usually occurs during sleep and can be the result of a sleep problem, like sleep apnea.
Here are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of enamel damage and cracks.
- Avoid ice chewing. Tooth enamel is not strong enough to withstand the drastic temperature changes of ice chewing. Our mouths are very warm, above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Chewing ice immediately takes your teeth to freezing temperatures. Just like sudden temperature changes can break glass, they can break enamel.
- Do not use your teeth as tools! Our teeth were not made to open packages, cut fishing line, or hold pen caps and hairpins. The only outside substance your teeth should be exposed to is food.
- Protect your teeth against clenching and grinding. If you clench or grind your teeth, your dentist can tell and will warn you of the consequences. He or she will also give you the option to protect your teeth and prevent attrition and cracks by wearing a professional night guard. A night guard covers the teeth, separates them, and protects them from the heavy forces our jaws produce when clenching or grinding. Professional nightguards are not cheap, but they are a lot cheaper than repairing a broken tooth!
- Treat sleep apnea! If you have or suspect you may have a sleep-disordered breathing issue, see your doctor about treating it. There is an extremely high correlation between sleep apnea and teeth grinding. Treating sleep apnea actually protects and preserves your teeth.
Following these steps reduces your risk for enamel damage and cracking. Ask your dentist how you can protect your teeth from these dangerous consequences.
Are You Ready to Protect Your Enamel?
Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with a dentist, who will help you take these steps toward protecting your enamel.