You’ve probably heard it said that tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, but that doesn’t make it immune to wear, damage, and distress. There are a few things that can contribute to the thinning of your tooth enamel. Let’s look at the most common things that may be damaging your enamel, and what to do about it:
- Acid erosion- enamel is a very hard substance, but acid weakens the chemical bonds that hold the mineral molecules together. The most common sources of acid erosion are soft drinks and fruit drinks, which contain substances such as phosphoric acid and citric acid. These acids directly threaten your teeth, but drinking through a straw can help minimize the exposure by bypassing your teeth rather than dousing them. Any drink with a low Ph is acidic and can have the effect of weakening the enamel. Sugary and starchy foods also result in exposure of the teeth to acid because the sugars and starches are converted into acid by the bacteria that live in our mouths. Proper and diligent brushing and flossing are important to help keep these bacteria in check.
- Brushing with abrasives- Although we just mentioned the importance of brushing, you must brush properly and not overdo it. Do not use abrasives like baking soda or use an abrasive toothpastes. Abrasives literally scrape enamel off of your teeth, like sandpaper. Many so-called “whitening” toothpastes contain abrasives that constantly remove tiny layers of enamel over time and can result in thinning. Your toothbrush itself can harm your teeth if you are brushing too hard and/or using bristles that are not soft enough. Many people make the mistake of thinking that brushing well means using force and really scrubbing, but a soft brush used gently at a 45-degree angle for 2 minutes is sufficient to remove plaque and reduce bacteria populations. It may also be wise not to brush too soon after a meal since the enamel is a bit weaker after being exposed to the acids in food. Drink water after eating and wait about half an hour to brush.
Of the many potential causes of thinning enamel, these above are the most common lifestyle habits. Other common factors include GERD or acid reflux, medications that cause dry mouth, and bruxism.
Once the enamel has worn away it cannot be reversed, but if you avoid or treat the contributing factors you can help prevent it from progressing. Also, using a remineralizing toothpaste can help protect and preserve the enamel that you have left. At Mall of Georgia Dentistry, we have a few different products available that might benefit you if thinning enamel is a concern of yours.
Try to be aware of these common causes of thinning enamel and see if they apply to you- if so, take steps to avoid them, and seek treatment for conditions such as GERD, bruxism, or dry mouth. Healthy teeth make for a lifetime of confident smiles, and caring for your enamel is essential to great dental health!