There’s a lot more that goes into a great smile than just keeping the pearly whites, well, white. Protecting tooth enamel plays an important role in having a beautiful and healthy smile.
What is tooth enamel?
Enamel is the thin outer covering of the tooth. It’s the hardest tissue in the human body and it helps protect teeth from the wear and tear that comes with chewing, biting and grinding. It also helps insulate teeth from hot and cold, making it possible to enjoy ice cream or hot coffee. While enamel is hard, it can chip or crack. Once the enamel layer is lost, it cannot regenerate.
What causes enamel erosion?
Enamel erosion happens when acids wear away the enamel on teeth, which can lead to the loss of tooth structure. The calcium that’s in saliva will usually help strengthen teeth after you have a small amount of acid, but too much acid prevents that from happening.
Enamel erosion can be caused by a number of things:
- Excessive consumption of carbonated drinks – sodas and other carbonated drinks contain high levels of phosphoric and citric acids, which can dissolve the enamel on your teeth quickly. The more you drink, or the longer you hold the drink in your mouth, the more damage is done.
- Fruit drinks (some acids in fruit drinks are more erosive than battery acid)
- Dry mouth or low salivary flow
- Diet (high in sugar and starches)
- Acid reflux disease
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Medications (aspirin, antihistamines)
- Genetics (inherited conditions)
- Environmental factors (friction, wear and tear, stress and corrosion)
Protecting Tooth Enamel
There are some simple things that you can do to help take care of your enamel and keep your teeth healthy:
Brush and floss daily.
Mom and the dentist are right. Keeping your teeth clean prevents enamel-damaging elements from building up. Be sure to brush for two minutes at least twice a day.
Use fluoride toothpaste.
Fluoride is a tooth strengthener, so it should be a part of your twice-daily brushing routine. For fluoride toothpaste with enamel care built in, consider ARM & HAMMER® Complete Care™l Enamel Strengthening toothpaste. It’s the only toothpaste with fluoride and Liquid Calcium®, which strengthens enamel while gently removing plaque and whitening teeth. Learn more at www.ahcompletecare.com.
See a dentist for regular check-ups and cleaning.
Not only will it help keep your teeth cleaner, but also your dentist can detect problems before you can – which means a small problem can be taken care of before it becomes a big one.
Drink sodas in moderation.
Sodas can be 10 times more corrosive than fruit juices in the first three minutes of drinking, according to a study published in the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) journal “General Dentistry.” The acids in the beverages damage your enamel, which then allows bad bacteria to get to the tooth. If you’re not going to avoid sodas or fruit juices, rinsing after enjoying these types of drinks can help.
Be careful about other beverages, too.
Another study by the AGD found that the damage caused by non-cola and sports beverages was three to 11 times greater than cola-based drinks, with energy drinks and bottled lemonades causing the most harm to tooth enamel. Sports beverages contain additives and organic acids that can advance dental erosion. These organic acids break down calcium, which is needed to strengthen teeth and prevent gum disease.
Sip with a straw.
Drink sodas and fruit juices with a straw, which helps acids to bypass the teeth.
Be mindful of snacking.
Eating foods which are high in sugar and starches increases the amount of acid in your mouth. If you can’t avoid snacking, brush your teeth afterward or at least give it a good rinsing. Snacking on celery, carrots or apples helps clear away loose food and debris.
Chew sugar-free gum.
It increases saliva production, and saliva has minerals that helps strengthen teeth. Choose a sugar-free gum that has xylitol, which can reduce acids.
Wait one hour to brush your teeth.
Because acid weakens enamel, brushing immediately after consuming highly acidic food or drinks, like wine, coffee, citrus fruits and soft drinks, runs the risk of wearing away the enamel in its weakened state.
Taking good care of your teeth lets you show off a great smile – and a healthy mouth – for a long time.
What’s the big deal about brushing? The Academy of General Dentistry says that:
- Toothpaste and a correct brushing action work to remove the sticky, harmful film of bacteria, called plaque, that grows on your teeth and causes cavities, gum disease and eventual tooth loss if not controlled.
- Toothpaste contains fluoride, which makes the entire tooth structure more resistant to decay and aids in repairing early decay before the damage can even be seen.
- Special ingredients in toothpaste help to clean and polish the teeth and remove stains over time.One of those special ingredients is baking soda. As a cleaning agent, baking soda is less abrasive than virtually any other cleaning agent used in toothpastes. Less abrasion means less tooth wear, which helps keep your teeth healthier, longer. And when it comes to cleaning, recent studies indicate that baking soda in high concentrations, like those found in most ARM & HAMMER toothpastes, breaks down into tiny particles that are able to penetrate enamel crevices and remove food particles and deep stain embedded there.