Oh, tooth enamel. One of the hardest substances in the body, and yet still susceptible to the ravages of time, acid and even genetics. Most people learn early on, thanks to a series of dentist visits, that enamel may be tough but it is also very thin, and can be eroded away, leaving your teeth vulnerable to a variety of problems and extra-sensitive to boot.
Is there anything you can do to save your teeth from this fate or restore lost enamel? Read on to find out more about the latest dental science and what it has to say about your precious enamel.
Losing Tooth Enamel
Traditional dentist wisdom is very firm about the state of enamel: The shell-like coating can crack, chip and wear away, especially with poor eating habits (like crunching on ice) and a lack of good dental hygiene. Once gone, enamel cannot come back. This is because enamel is made from dead cells that cannot regenerate on their own, and unlike hair or fingernails, it has no bed or source layer to grow out from if it is removed. Thin or cracked enamel leaves your teeth open to infection and similar problems.
Much of this conventional wisdom still holds true. However, dental science has made great leaps since these beliefs about enamel were first formed decades ago. Now we have a better idea of how enamel works, and technology that promises new ways to deal with enamel problems.
Certain products have hit the market under the term “enamel restoring” or similar phrases that try to convince buyers that brushing with the right product will give your teeth a new coating of enamel. But if these products were for your nails, they would have more in common with nail polish than with actual fingernails. They contain trace minerals and calcium that can bond to your enamel and help fill in the gaps and cracks.
Patching enamel does not cause new enamel to literally grow back, and minerals in toothpaste cannot permanently shore up weakened enamel just by being present in the mouth for a brief time while brushing. However, brushing regularly with toothpaste like this can prevent problems like calcium leeching and can help already-damaged enamel from growing weaker.
The “Remineralization” Question
True remineralization, or regrowth of enamel, is a more difficult goal. While we know what enamel is made from – such as calcium phosphate – we are not sure how to introduce it to the teeth so that it becomes a permanent part of the enamel coating. Studies have shown that enamel and its base layer of dentin can indeed be reformed by exposing human teeth to the right type of “mineral bath” that encourages permanent bonding, sort of an advanced version of enamel-patching toothpastes.
Eventually, remineralization studies may lead to new treatments for enamel loss that does encourage long-term enamel repair. Otherwise, there are dental sealants and other types of treatments that can help prevent tooth decay by covering up corroded enamel with an alternative coating.
Tooth Care With Weakened Enamel
If you have weakened or corroded enamel, you can do a lot to help stop your enamel loss. In addition to choosing the right toothpastes, you should also try to avoid the more acidic or sugary foods, and rinse your mouth after meals to wash away any particles of food clinging to your teeth. Avoiding afternoon snacks, sodas, and acidic foods like lemons can also help your condition.
Treating conditions like a frequently dry mouth (chewing gums is a great solution!) can also help, since saliva can help protection your enamel from the worst effects of food and acidic juices.
Leslie Owens is a professional blogger that provides information for the importance in oral care for children. She writes for Embassy Dental, a top dental practice in the Nashville TN area.