April 02, 2016

Tooth Enamel: How To Protect It

Tooth enamel is the strongest substance in the human body and is designed to last a lifetime. This hard, outer layer has an important job to do in protecting teeth from the daily wear and tear of biting and chewing, guarding teeth against the erosive effects of acids and chemicals as well as temperature extremes from hot or cold foods and drinks.

Enamel covers the dentin, a part of the tooth that is not as dense as enamel. When enamel erodes, the dentin loses some of its protection. Then, the microscopic tubes inside the dentin allow hot, cold, or sweet foods to stimulate nerves within the tooth. The result here is that you may notice that your teeth have become painfully sensitive to hot or cold foods and drinks and sweets. Don’t worry there is still plenty you can do to help keep your enamel strong, here are five tips.

#1 Limit Soft Drinks and Sugary Foods


Sugar leads to the production of acids in the mouth, which soften and eventually wear away at enamel. Chewy candies that stick on your teeth are particularly damaging. So are soft drinks. Along with sugar, soft drinks may contain citric acid and phosphoric acid, making them even more acidic. If you think sugar-free is better then think again! Sugarless sweeteners are acidic and may still erode enamel over time. Drink any of these through a straw to minimise the effects. Of course the best choice when you're thirsty is a glass of water.


#2 Help Yourself to Foods That Protect Your Enamel


Calcium in foods neutralises acids in your mouth. Calcium is also an essential mineral needed to keep bones strong. Milk, cheese, and other dairy products all help protect and strengthen enamel. If you frequently drink orange juice, O.J. with added calcium may be the best choice. Calcium buffers the normal acidity of orange and other citrus juices. Finish a meal with a glass of milk or a piece of cheese.


#3 Avoid Over-brushing


Brushing too vigorously can wear down enamel. Always use a soft brush and brush gently. Hold the brush at about a 45-degree angle to your gums and move it back and forth in short strokes, about the distance of one tooth. Don't brush immediately after eating sweets or citrus fruits. Acidic foods temporarily soften enamel and may make it more susceptible to damage from brushing. Swill water round you mouth after eating this kind of food and wait for up to an hour after you eat before brushing your teeth as this gives your enamel time to re-harden.


#4 Treat Heartburn, Acid Reflux and Eating Disorders


With severe heartburn and acid reflux, stomach acids may escape up into the esophagus. If those acids reach your mouth, they can erode enamel. The eating disorder bulimia, in which people vomit food after they eat, is another threat to enamel. If you have symptoms of heartburn, acid reflux or bulimia, talk to your doctor about treatment.


#5 Beware of Chlorinated Pools


When swimming pools aren't chlorinated properly, the water may become too acidic. Tooth enamel exposed to pool water can begin to erode. In a study by the Centers for Disease Control, 15% of frequent swimmers showed signs of enamel erosion, compared to only 3% of people who don't swim. Check with the recreation center or gym where you swim to make sure the pool's pH is checked regularly. While swimming, keep your mouth closed to avoid exposing your teeth to the chlorinated water.  

By Zoe Vanderbilt  B.Sc