You may be aware that dental cavities are holes in the teeth. These cavities are the outcome of a process of tooth decay which happens over a while. The good thing is that you can interrupt this process and preserve your teeth.
The outer part of the teeth is made of enamel. This is a substance which protects the tooth from damage that could come from chemicals or physical factors. The enamel is a very tough coat on the teeth. It is said to be the hardest tissue –even above bones. It is your teeth’s first defense. Your teeth receive attacks daily from chemicals found in foods and fluids of the body. These attacks make the teeth undergo wear and tear. This condition is what is called enamel erosion or damage.
Symptoms of Enamel Damage
Enamel erosion comes with symptoms. Some readily noticed symptoms are stains on the teeth and sensitivity of the tooth. Listing the symptoms, we have:
- An increase in sensitivity with regards to taste, temperature and textures
- Chips and cracks
- Cups (indentations) on your teeth
Severe pain when your teeth is exposed to hot, cold, spicy or acidic foods and drinks are likely evidence of severe erosion. Left untreated, this could lead to things like:
- Stained yellow teeth
- Teeth with rough edges
- Extreme sensitivity
- Shiny spots
- Tooth decay
- Fractured teeth
- Translucent teeth
The Chemical Struggle in Your Mouth
Our mouth is filled with so much bacteria. Different types of bacteria running into their hundreds can be found in our tongue, teeth, gums and all over our mouth. While some of them are helpful, many others are harmful and participate in the process that results in tooth decay. These harmful bacteria use sugar in the food we eat to cause an infection that erodes the tooth.
What looks like a struggle goes on in our mouth. Team A is made up of sticky dental plaque, colorless film of bacteria, starchy foods and drinks; this team work together to produce acids. Acids that come directly from juices, drinks and sodas are so harmful that they are worse than battery acids. These acids are what lead to chemical wear. Team B is made up of minerals like calcium and phosphate found in our saliva, and fluoride from toothpaste, pipe borne water and other sources. This team replaces the minerals lost by ‘acid attacks’.
Ordinarily, throughout the day, our teeth go through the process of losing and regaining minerals. However, when a tooth is under a long attack, white spots begin to appear. This is the first sign that mineral loss has taken place. At this point, the decay can be stopped and can even be reversed.
With the help of saliva in the mouth, which is filled with minerals, and fluoride from toothpaste, the acids from foods are neutralized. However, where this process is left unchecked, the enamel becomes weak and forms a permanent damage known as cavity. When it gets to the point of cavities, only a filling of the tooth is left as option.
You can check out this site for more www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/tooth-decay/more-info/tooth-decay-process.
Source and Causes of Enamel Damage
Some foods and drinks that can result in enamel erosion are:
- Ice cream, caramel, syrups, and other sugary foods.
- White bread and other starchy foods.
- Apples, berries, rhubarb, citrus fruits and other acidic fruits.
- Juices and fruit drinks.
- Sodas. The case of soda is worsened because it has citric acid, phosphoric acid and sugar.
- Vitamin C, when excess.
Beyond foods and drinks, some other things that can bring about this erosion of the enamel are:
- BRUXISM –this is teeth grinding. It is often done unconsciously, especially at night during sleep. The constant grinding can cause physical damage of fracturing and wearing down the enamel.
- BITING HARD SURFACES –remember not to reduce your teeth to can openers. They could be cracked or chipped in the process. Also, gnawing on things like pens and fingernails or hard seeds, ice or kernels could cause the same result.
- XEROSTOMIA –this is about low saliva in the mouth. Diabetes patients experience this. A dry mouth makes acids stick around much longer. Some drugs can be reason for dryness in the mouth.
- DRUG USAGE –the constant use of some drugs like antihistamines and aspirin.
- BULIMIA –this is an eating disorder that results in frequent vomiting, bringing up stomach acid to the mouth.
- BOTTLED WATER ADDICTION –an increase in the use of bottled water is another reason for the damage. Tap water is treated with fluoride, which is very good for the teeth. Drinking less tap water will therefore mean less fluoride.
Enamel Damage in Children
Children are the most vulnerable to enamel damage. Much of this damaged is due to children being often fed with sugary foods and drinks all through the day. Because of the above fact, let us dwell more on prevention and treatment for children.
The use of fluoride is a very useful way to fight tooth damage. As a mineral, fluoride helps to stop the progression of enamel damage. If the damage is still in its early stages, fluoride can even reverse it. So, what exactly does fluoride do?
- It prevents loss of minerals in the enamel and replaces them when they are lost.
- The presence of fluoride also stops the bacteria in your mouth from making acid.
There are a number of sources for fluoride. Some of those sources are:
- Pipe borne water from community supplies. It is estimated that about seventy four percent of Americans getting water from community supplies receive fluoride through that.
- Toothpastes are another source of fluoride. So, brushing with a toothpaste containing fluoride is very helpful. Fluorides, aside toothpastes, can come in gel form which can be applied directly to your child’s tooth surfaces. Fluorides are also available in tablet form. They are also in some mouthwash products.
What a Child Eats
It is necessary that a child’s feeding habit is monitored to avoid the occurrence of enamel erosion. A continuous feeding upon sugary and acidic foods will surely bring about erosion. The constant feeding on sugary and acidic foods does not allow the saliva to perform its healing duty. So, keeping an eye on what your child eats is the very first step. So, you will need to do the following:
- Snacks that come in-between meals should be limited. Just doing this reduces the acid attacks that your child could have. The teeth are then given an opportunity for self-repair.
- Candy, soda, cookies and all such can be special occasions’ treat.
- On fruit juices, there is a daily recommendation from pediatrics. Stick to that!
- Once your child has brushed for the night, make sure there is no other drinking or eating anything that contains sugar. During sleep, saliva flow lessens. The reduced saliva means that acid attacks will not receive adequate repairs.
- Make sure they brush their teeth twice a day. Do not just leave your children to brush themselves, be there to supervise them. A pea-sized amount of paste is what your child needs if under the age of six. Do not use fluoride toothpaste for children below two years. Encourage your child to spit out after brushing and not swallow the paste. It is dangerous for a child to regularly swallow fluoride. This could lead to dental fluorosis due to high levels of fluoride in the body. Fluorosis is typically mild though. Help your child brush until the age of seven or eight.
- You may also consider dental sealants. These are thin coatings of plastic spread on chewing surfaces, like the molar and back teeth surfaces. Sealants are helpful because the nature of back teeth is such that allows both food and bacteria to get stuck in them. Brushes do little to get to foods stuck here. So what sealants do is to cover the surfaces where food and bacteria hide. Getting your child’s molars sealed as soon as they are coming up is the best.
Some Options for Adults
For adults, some measures that can be considered in the case of progressing enamel damage are:
- Bonding –this is a resin applied to the surface of a damaged or stained tooth to hide discolorations.
- Sealants –they are equally good for adults as they can prevent further damage.
- Dental plaque removal.
- Visiting your dentist in order to get a professional cleaning of your entire mouth once in a while.
- Teeth whitening procedures should be done by professionals to avoid damaging or worsening the enamel. You can check right here for professional help.
The enamel is quite tough. However, it is not made up of living cells. The result is that when damaged from physical impact or chemicals, it cannot repair itself. What does this mean? Enamel erosion, once it is complete, cannot be treated or reversed. Your enamel cannot grow back. However, as the erosion takes some long while to happen, it can be kept from getting worse. So, you can still do something about it by preventing it from getting worse.