You brush, you floss, you see your dentist regularly. But your teeth may still be eroding.
Dental erosion is sometimes called demineralization. It starts with the softening of the enamel on your teeth, and can progress to impact the underlying dentin. The end result can be significant structural damage to your teeth, which can lead to tooth loss.
As many as one in five Americans are affected by dental erosion, according to the Journal of the California Dental Association.
Cavities are caused by bacterial activity on the teeth. These bacteria are fueled by the carbohydrates in sugary foods, and create acid which eats away at teeth. Erosion, in contrast, is caused by acids in drinks and foods, or from regurgitated stomach acid as it passes through the mouth.
Let’s Talk Teeth
A tooth has two anatomical parts: root and crown. The root is embedded into the jaw, anchoring the tooth in its socket. The crown is the visible part of your teeth, what you see when you smile.
A tooth’s crown is covered with enamel, comprised of tiny, tightly-packed rods of minerals. Each rod is comprised of millions of carbonated hydroxyapatite crystals, and the rods in single tooth range from 5 million in the lower lateral incisor to 12 million in the upper first molar.
Underneath the enamel is the dentine, which covers the tooth’s pulp. The pulp contains the tooth’s nerve and blood supply. And then there’s the cementum, a layer of tissue that covering the root.
Tooth enamel is the toughest tissue in the human body. It helps protect teeth from damage that can be causing by chomping, biting, crunching, and grinding. Enamel also acts as a sort of insulator to protect teeth from heat and cold foods and liquids, and acidic foods and drinks such as fruit juice.
Despite all this, tooth enamel can be damaged by forceful brushing. And since enamel has no living cells, the body cannot repair enamel if it is damaged. So it’s especially important to protect it from erosion.
Protect Your Teeth From Erosion
Limit acidic beverages, such as soda, citrus juices, energy and sports drinks and wine. Sugar-laden acidic drinks such as citrus juice and citrus-flavored sodas can cause double the damage, so be especially vigilant about how often you indulge in them. Try to rinse your mouth after drinking acidy liquids. If you must have juice, dentists tend to suggest drinking it through a straw and then rinsing your mouth with water directly afterward.
Also limit acidic foods such as citrus fruits, sour candies, and vinegary pickles. When you choose to eat these foods, eating them with other foods can help to limit your teeth’s exposure to the acids.
Limit artificially flavored, sugar-free treats that include citric acid and phosphoric acid.
Dry mouth puts teeth at increased risk for erosion, as a healthy saliva flow helps protect teeth from exposure to acid. Be careful about strict diet plans. Juice cleanses obviously expose your teeth to acids, but an all-liquid diet can also result in reduced saliva production (salvia flow is triggered when we chew). Low carb diets can have the same effect on salvia flow. Whether low carb is a diet or a lifestyle for you, take life better for your teeth when you’re eating low carb by keeping yourself well-hydrated with water, rinsing your mouth with a product designed for dry mouth care, and chewing sugarless gum.
Brushing your teeth too vigorously, or shortly after your teeth have been exposed to acids, worsens the damage. Skip brushing after a drink of orange juice, for example, and just rinse your mouth with plain water. The same advice applies to your mouth if you have vomited or have acid reflux – hold off for an hour or so before you brush, but do rinse out your mouth with water to help neutralize the acid.
Additionally, biting your nails or objects such as pencils or pens, crunching on ice, tooth grinding and other similar activities can considerably worsen dental damage caused by erosion.
Be gentle with your teeth. Whitening toothpastes can be very abrasive. And no matter what toothpaste you choose, use a soft brush to further ensure you aren’t damaging your dental enamel in the pursuit of cleanliness. You can get your teeth clean without scrubbing them unmercifully. And remember that regular professional cleanings are the best way to maintain bright, healthy smile.
If you’ve been putting off getting the dental care you need due to budget concerns, consider a dental savings plan. You can reduce the cost of dental treatment by 20%-60% with a plan, and some plans include savings on fitness and nutrition services, as well as vision and hearing care and discounts on prescription medications. To find out more about dental savings plans, visit dentalplans.com or call 844-239-7928.