Tooth Enamel

Tooth enamel is the hardest substance found in the human body and it covers the top of every tooth protect it from harm and decay. In fact, enamel is an unusually hard substance that is particularly meant for protecting the teeth from any injury and damage. Tooth enamel is a type of a shield that protects the susceptible areas on the sides of the teeth so that they are able to sustain damages owing to decay.

In fact, seeing tooth enamel is very difficult as it is a translucent substance that allows light to pass. The major part of the tooth, which is called dentin, is, in fact, the part that imparts its color to an individual's teeth. Some people have stained teeth when their dentin is discoloured. In fact, the actual color of the dentin is slightly yellowish. So when the enamel cover is lost one's teeth appears to be yellowish and dirty.

Precisely speaking, enamel is the external covering of the tooth's crown - the portion that is visible when you open your mouth. Being the hardest substance in the human body and covering the teeth, enamel protects our teeth from harm and damage when we eat, chew, bite or grind food.

At the same time, enamel shields our teeth from a variety of chemicals as well as different temperatures. It is an extremely mineralized substance and acts like an insulator for the teeth. Despite the fact that enamel is the hardest substance present in our body, it is also vulnerable to erosion, fracture and chipping.

As mentioned earlier, enamel is a translucent substance, but the basic color of dentin is yellow or greyish white and sometimes completely white. The dentin’s color is responsible for the appearance of enamel. Enamel does not have any living cells. Therefore, if the enamel erodes or chips off, it cannot repair on its own. The enamel is roughly 2.5 mm thick over the molar cusps, while it is about 2.0 mm thick on the inscisal edges.

For dentists, it is one of the foremost tasks to protect their patient's tooth enamel. Every time an individual eats, bites or puts something in their mouth, the chances of damaging the enamel or the teeth remains. However, the enamel is so strong that it prevents the teeth from breaking even when you bite or chew something hard. The enamel also protects the teeth from decaying due to sugary or acidic foods.

In spite of being an extremely hard substance and covering the tooth to protect it, enamel is also vulnerable to damage. When the enamel is damaged, it results in the decay of the teeth or various other problems resulting in injures of the underlying tooth. When enamel corrodes or wears out there is no barrier between the bacteria present in the oral cavity and the tooth, which is easily susceptible to decay and infections.

Enamel performs another critical function and that is insulating the incisor teeth from painful varying temperatures or different harmful chemicals. Despite the fact that enamel is an exceptionally hard substance that protects our teeth, it is also vulnerable to cracking and chipping. When the enamel is damaged, our body cannot repair it by itself. As enamel does not have any living cell, the body is incapable of repairing cracks and chips in the enamel.

Since enamel has a crucial role in protecting our teeth from decay and damage, it is vital that we should do everything possible to prevent the enamel from eroding or cracking. Enamel is a very strong barrier that helps to save the inner layers of the teeth from harm caused by acids and plaque. At the same time, enamel shields the sensitive inner layers of the teeth from beverages and foods that are either extremely cold or extremely hot.

It is possible for you to protect your tooth enamel by staying away from foods that you know would cause several damages. For instance, sugary foods, fruits that contain acids and beverages which are acidic are responsible for damaging the tooth enamel. When these substances or ingredients present in them stick to your teeth, they interact with the bacteria in the oral cavity producing lactic acid, which causes immense damage to the enamel. It is advisable that whenever possible you should avoid them. In case you do consume them, you should brush your teeth thoroughly soon after.

In addition to foods and beverages, foods that are very hard, such as ice cubes or hardy candy may also harm your tooth enamel by causing chip or cracks. Hence, it is advisable that you should also stay away from such foods whenever possible. Still if you indulge in hard candy, it is better to suck them rather than biting them down.

Types of tooth enamel loss

There are various ways by which we can lose tooth enamel. Some of them include abrasion, erosion, attrition, teeth-to-teeth friction and others. These are described briefly below.

Abrasion: When one brushes his/her teeth too hard, does flossing improperly, chews tobacco or bites on hard objects, it leads to loss of tooth enamel. This type of tooth enamel loss is known as abrasion, which wears away the enamel or the shell around the top of our tooth.

Attrition: Tooth enamel is also lost at the incisal edges and the cusps when there is tooth-to-tooth friction. This process is accelerated when tooth-to-tooth friction is caused by involuntary grinding (as in the case of bruxism) and clenching. Rigorous attrition also results in loss of the vertical crown on top of the tooth and, at times, it also exposes the nerve endings. When this happens, it causes severe sensitivity when one is eating.

Erosion: Tooth enamel is also reduced due to erosion, especially when your teeth enamel is exposed to acidic foods. In fact, extremely acidic foods and medicines such as vitamin C tables, aspirin and even GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) are few of the causes that lead to tooth enamel erosion.

What causes harm to tooth enamel?

Tooth enamel is considered to be the hardest substance in the human body, but even this part is susceptible to harm or injury. If your food habits and/or oral hygiene habits are poor it may often result in loss of tooth enamel. As discussed above, tooth enamel loss is caused in various ways including abrasion, erosion attrition and also by chipping off a part of the tooth itself.

When tooth enamel is lost it may lead to tooth sensitivity often making it difficult to eat. Tooth enamel loss is caused in various ways. Some of these a mentioned below briefly.

In case you are using a toothbrush having hard bristles or you usually brush your teeth very roughly, it is unfortunate that you are unsuspectingly contributing to the graze of tooth enamel.

Consuming too much soft drinks can also lead to erosion of the tooth enamel as such beverages contain various acids.

Even consuming excessive citrus fruits may result in tooth enamel erosion.

Bulimia, wherein vomiting is due to self-induced, may also cause tooth enamel erosion.

Side effects of tooth erosion

When your tooth enamel is reduced, it cannot heal or repair on its own. There are a number of side effects of losing your tooth enamel.

Sensitivity: The most common side effect of losing or erosion of tooth enamel is tooth sensitivity. In fact, a very thin layer of enamel covers each tooth. Therefore, when the tooth is deprived of its protective cover, the dentin gets exposed resulting in sensitivity. In some instances, even the tooth pulp is exposed due to the erosion of enamel and this also causes sensitivity.

Discoloured teeth: When the tooth enamel is reduces, the color of your teeth becomes yellow. This is owing to the dentin being exposed. As we are aware that dentin has a yellow hue, your teeth too has yellowish tint and looks dirty.

Tooth edges become uneven: When the tooth enamel is lost and it doesn’t happen evenly, it makes your tooth edges look uneven. As a result, the teeth become somewhat fragile and this increases the chances of portions of a tooth to chip off.

Increased tooth decay: When the protective layering of the teeth is lost, they become vulnerable to onslaughts by acids. As a result, the chances of your tooth decay are augmented.

Tooth height decreases: When severe attrition leads to loss of enamel, the height of our tooth also reduces. This happens when the dentin is exposed making the teeth look smaller.

How to prevent loss of tooth enamel?

There are a number of ways by which you may put off tooth enamel loss. Some of these methods are describer briefly below.

Learn the right technique to brush your teeth: It is always advisable that you use a toothbrush having medium bristles or you may also use a powered toothbrush. At the same time, you need to ensure that you don’t brush your teeth roughly. At the same time, it is important that you change your toothbrush once every three months provided you are using a manual toothbrush. Ideally, you should use toothpaste that has a fluoride base.

Learn the appropriate way of flossing: Floss your teeth regularly but ensure that you do not hurt yourself in the process. It is important that you should not floss randomly. In case you think that you are not flossing in the right way, learn the right technique when you visit your dentist next time.

Whenever you take soft drinks, it is always advisable that you use a straw to prevent your teeth from coming in contact with the acids present in such beverages. At the same time, stay away from or reduce consuming drinks that are highly acidic or contain plenty of sugars.

Rinsing your mouth well after every meal is very important. Whenever you eat or drink anything ensure that you rinse your mouth with water to get rid of any acid that may be deposited from the foods on the surface of the teeth.

People who may be enduring any eating disorder or suffering from bruxism or problems related to the gastro-intestinal system should check with the concerned physician and get immediate treatment. Timely treatment will not only help them to improve their health, but also reduce the risks of losing tooth enamel.

It is strongly recommended that you visit your dentist on a regular basis for check-ups so that he/she is able to detect if there is any early sign of enamel loss and initiate suitable treatment to help you.