Imagine the suits of armor that were worn in crusades to protect soft human flesh from swords, arrows and spears. That is what dental enamel is for your teeth. There is no tissue in your body that is tougher than the one that covers the outer layer of your teeth, not even bone. Your teeth are exposed to a lot of chemicals from foods and bodily fluids, and dental enamel is their first line of defense.
However, dental enamel has a glaring weakness. Once damaged or eroded, dental enamel cannot regenerate as it doesn’t possess any living cells. Tooth enamel erosion has the potential to become a serious dental issue if enough care is not provided. It’s a problem that is especially prevalent in children. In a study conducted in 2013, 13% American children were found to have dental erosion (out of 243 tested). Let’s take a look at enamel erosion in detail.
The major culprit behind enamel erosion is the acid inside the foods and drinks you consume. The body does have a defense against this acid (saliva) which constantly neutralizes the acid level in our mouths.
However, consuming too much acidic food and drinks without regularly brushing your teeth will overpower the saliva and cause the tooth enamel to degrade over time. Foods that are particularly harmful for your tooth enamel include sugary foods such as ice creams, caramel, syrups and sodas. It’s not only foods that cause enamel erosion. Bruxism (teeth grinding), chronic acid reflux and xerostomia (low salivatory flow) can all lead to enamel erosion as well.
There are various symptoms of enamel erosion. These are some of the main ones:
If enamel erosion is left untreated, it can result in increased tooth decay and complications like stained, discolored and fractured teeth.
As mentioned above, tooth enamel cannot grow back or regenerate. Treatment of enamel erosion depends upon the severity of the issue. If the damage is minimal or mild, a dentist may fill up the eroded area with tooth-colored resin. This is called tooth bonding. However, for teeth that are extensively eroded, chipped or fractured, a dentist may place a tooth cap over the affected tooth to cover it from further damage.