Enamel is the hard, outermost layer of the teeth that acts as a shield for the more sensitive layers underneath. Tooth enamel also helps protect our teeth from cavity-causing bacteria and daily activities, such as chewing, crunching, and biting. However, despite its role as a protector, enamel can still chip, crack, and deteriorate.
Going, Going, Gone
Everyone loses some of their protective enamel as a natural result of aging. However, there are many other things you may be doing that can speed up the deterioration of tooth enamel.
Having Too Many Sugary Drinks
Sugary soft drinks and sodas are a leading cause of tooth decay. This is because the bacteria in our mouths thrive on sugar, which they convert to acid that can eat away at tooth enamel. As a result, when a person consumes a diet high in sugary foods and drinks, this acid production increases, and cavities develop.
Brushing Too Hard
It’s true that you should brush your teeth twice per day, but many people make the mistake of thinking that brushing harder means they are cleaning more effectively. In reality, brushing too hard can wear away your tooth enamel and may cause gum recession, leaving the tooth’s root exposed. Instead, try making short, gentle strokes as you brush your teeth, and always choose a soft-bristled toothbrush.
Poor Oral Hygiene
One of the most common causes of worn enamel is poor oral hygiene. However, simply following a basic dental hygiene routine and visiting the dentist twice per year is enough to prevent enamel erosion. Most importantly, remember to brush your teeth twice per day and floss regularly to prevent decay.
Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)
Bruxism, also known as teeth grinding, affects about 8% of American adults and 15% of American adolescents. Most people grind their teeth in their sleep, although some also experience bruxism during the day. Either way, any teeth grinding, clamping, or clenching can wear away the enamel and often leads to severe damage, including cracks, breaks, and chips.
While there is no formal treatment for bruxism, many patients find relief from nighttime teeth grinding with a nightguard. At Kip Dental, we offer custom nightguards for our patients to ensure a comfortable fit.
Bulimia and Other Medical Conditions
Enamel protects our teeth, but it was not made to handle stomach acid. For this reason, overexposure to stomach acid is another common cause of tooth enamel erosion. In addition, many medical conditions can leave the teeth exposed to dangerous stomach acid, including:
- Bulimia: The recurring episodes of vomiting that characterize bulimia repeatedly expose the teeth to stomach acid and cause the enamel to wear away.
- Binge Drinking: Regular binge drinking followed by bouts of vomiting puts stomach acid in constant contact with the tooth enamel.
- Acid Reflux / Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Acid reflux, or heartburn, also contributes to enamel erosion and makes the teeth more susceptible to decay.
Prevention and Education
While what you do at home is important, the best way to keep your teeth healthy and strong is to visit your dentist for regular dental check-ups. At Kip Dental, we are proud to offer our patients oral hygiene education and compassionate care. If you’re due for your next visit, contact us today to schedule an appointment.