Of all the substances found in our body, including bone, it’s the enamel that stands out as the strongest. This sparkling white material protects our teeth and is composed almost entirely out of minerals. It is this composition that makes it durable and resilient to damage and wear and tear. In spite of its durability, it is subject to damage if weakened by exposure to acid. This weakening makes it possible for the enamel to erode, resulting in cavities. Many people wonder if, once the enamel has become damaged, if it’s possible to repair it.
The Sources of Erosion Of Dental Enamel
So if it’s such a durable material, how is it possible for mere sugar to damage it? The truth is, it’s not the sugar. Instead, the enamel will soften when exposed to acids, making it vulnerable to damage and staining. Acids are produced in the mouth when the bacteria there consume acids and carbohydrates. In addition, foods that we eat can provide acid that can start attacking our enamel as well. Some well-known sources of these acids and sugars include:
- High sugar foods (fruit juice and candy)
- High starch foods (potatoes, bread, corn chips, etc.)
- High acid foods (citrus fruits, soda, spaghetti sauce, etc.)
When these foods are prominent in a diet, there are more than just a few extra pounds to worry about. You also have to worry about the damage these substances can do to your teeth. In addition to sugar and acid-based damage to your teeth, these conditions can also cause problems:
- Bruxism – A condition that involves habitual grinding of the teeth
- Reflux – Conditions such as acid reflux or GERD
- Dry Mouth – Conditions like xerostomia or reduced saliva production
- Medication – Some medication such as acetaminophen
- Eating Disorders – Conditions like bulimia that result in exposure to acid
Your enamel is essential to protecting the inner, less durable, portions of your teeth. Erosion of this material makes them vulnerable to damaging acids, as well as more likely to become damaged through wear and tear. This includes indents, cracks, discoloration, and chipping.
So Is It Possible To Restore Tooth Enamel?
The answer to this could be thought of as a highly conditional “yes” but is really “no.” It’s important to begin with the knowledge that it’s impossible for your body, on its own, to create new enamel. While there are new technologies that may change this, they aren’t presently available outside of laboratory settings. However, enamel that is still present and has been weakened can be strengthened and repaired. This is done by remineralization, where you provide calcium, fluoride, and phosphate that your enamel can use to reinforce itself.
The best steps to helping this process along include brushing regularly, using dental floss, avoiding foods high in sugar and starch, and staying well hydrated. You can also use sugar-free gum with xylitol to help clean and protect your teeth. Most importantly, make sure to call and arrange to see your dentist twice every year. They’re your best ally in lasting oral health.