Tooth enamel provides the outer covering of the section of the teeth that stick out from the gum. In other words, it is the part of the teeth that you normally see when you look inside the mouth. It forms the cover over the part of the tooth known as the dentin.
Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body. It is even harder than the bones, and it forms while the teeth are developing before they even protrude from the gum. Once fully formed, it contains no nerves or blood vessels and is not a living tissue. For that reason, it does not regenerate if it gets broken or damaged the way a broken bone does. Its main composition is the mineral hydroxyapatite.
Tooth enamel is semi-translucent. This means it is partially, but not completely responsible, for the color of the teeth. It can vary in color from grayish white to light yellow. The dentin underneath the enamel also contributes to the tooth’s color. Drinks like red wine, tea, coffee and cola can stain the enamel and cause discoloration of the teeth. Tobacco use can have the same effect. Most of these stains can be removed with regular visits to Dr. Bowman’s offices for cleaning.
Enamel helps to protect the teeth from wear and tear caused by daily activities like biting and chewing. Because of its hardness, tooth enamel is also brittle and is therefore subject to cracking, chipping and breaking. Biting into things like hard candy can increase the chances of damaging it.
Tooth enamel can be damaged over time due to erosion. This is commonly caused by exposure to acids in certain foods and drinks. Soft drinks typically contain phosphoric and citric acids. Some fruit juices also contain a significant amount of acids that can do damage to the enamel. Foods that contain high levels of sugar and starches are other culprits.
Another condition that is not directly related to diet, but can have a harmful effect on tooth surface, includes acid reflex disease because of the teeth’s exposure to stomach acid. People with dry mouths are also more susceptible to tooth enamel erosion because saliva helps to protect the teeth against the harmful effects of these aggressors.
Tooth enamel erosion can lead to increased sensitivity to hot or cold drinks. As the outer surface of the tooth becomes thinner, it offers less protection against temperature extremes, and the result is a painful experience whenever contact with something hot or cold occurs.
Regular brushing with fluoride-containing toothpaste and limiting harmful foods and drinks are two simple things that can be done to preserve the enamel on the teeth. Routine dental checkups can help to detect potential problems before they become serious.
To protect your tooth enamel to the best of your abilities, schedule a routine appointment at the office of Dr. Brodie Bowman, DMD, with locations in Niceville and Fort Walton Beach. Contact us today to book your dental appointment.