Dentists are reporting increased amounts of erosion of tooth enamel, especially in younger patients. It’s no surprise really, as Regina dentists know there is a marked increase in consumption of sugary beverages of all kinds. Most of our liquid indulgences contain acid – juice, pop, sports drinks, wine, and even those “healthy” fruit-infused teas that are so delicious! To add to our problems, we often like to snack throughout the day, and all of those apples, grapes, grapefruit and oranges, are acidic.
The problem – aside from the sugar intake – is that as we munch and sip continuously throughout the day, the acid is allowed to work away on our teeth, causing the enamel to erode. Enamel, unfortunately, is something our body does NOT regrow as it has no living cells. It is an important part of our oral health though, as it protects the teeth from daily use of chewing, biting, crunching and grinding. It also insulates the teeth from extreme temperatures.
What is enamel? It is the thin outer covering of the tooth and is the hardest tissue in the human body (that’s why dental records are often the best way of identifying remains). Enamel can get stained by coffee, tea, smoking, etc, but the stains can usually be polished away. It is the dentin, below the enamel, that is responsible for the tooth colour.
Other causes of dental erosion can be lack of saliva, acid reflux, medications, genetics, and factors such as clenching and grinding. We can help mitigate many of these factors with a few simple habits. Dentists in Regina will suggest the following:
- Rinse your mouth with water after vomiting or taking medications such as puffers
- Chew sugarless gum throughout the day, especially if you are not able to brush
- Drink acidic beverages with a straw so that they are not staying on the teeth – and have a drink of water after these drinks to rinse away the acid (and sugar)
- Have a nightguard made if you clench or grind your teeth
- Don’t bite hard objects – finger nails, ice cubes, pens, etc.
- Don’t brush too hard and use a soft-bristled brush. Proper brushing is a swish around the gums and then a stroke up/downwards to ‘push’ the bacteria off the teeth
- Use fluoride toothpaste as it strengthens the teeth.
- Visit your dentist at least twice a year to have everything cleaned up and assessed
- Possible medications for low salivary flow. Saliva contains protective calcium and other minerals that strengthen your teeth, so it is important for both oral health and fighting bad breath.
What happens if the enamel erodes? You may experience sensitivity to certain foods and temperatures, which can range from a twinge of pain to severe, debilitating pain. More dentin will be exposed so your teeth may appear yellow in colour. Edges of your teeth can become rough and jagged, and indentations may appear on the surface making the tooth more susceptible to cavities and decay. To repair damage your dentist may advise tooth bonding (like a filling) or a crown or veneer if the enamel loss is significant.