We all appreciate a sparkling white smile. But the surface of your teeth plays a much more important role than just looking good.
Enamel is the hard shell that covers the outside of our teeth. It’s actually the hardest tissue in our bodies. It protects the teeth from damage caused by chewing, biting and grinding. It also provides a layer of insulation to protect teeth and the nerves inside them from pain caused by extreme temperatures and chemicals.
Tooth enamel can be broken or chipped if you bite into something very hard or hit your teeth against something, such as during a fall. Unlike a broken bone, once the enamel is damaged, the body is not able to repair or replace it.
Enamel can also be damaged by erosion which causes the enamel to gradually become thinner. Friction from teeth rubbing together while chewing, or pressure from grinding teeth together can damage the enamel.
When enamel becomes thin, teeth can become sensitive to certain foods such as sweets, as well as hot or cold temperatures. Teeth may also appear discolored or yellow and may have visible cracks, chips or indentations.
Acids in foods and drinks can also make tooth enamel temporarily softer. During this phase, enamel can lose some of its mineral content and can more easily be damaged by hard surfaces rubbing against the teeth.
Over time, saliva or spit naturally neutralizes acids in the mouth and allows the enamel to return to its normal hardness. Saliva also contains large amounts of calcium which can help restore minerals to the teeth.
Watch out for these things that can damage your tooth enamel:
Carbonated soft drinks (sodas), fruit drinks and citrus fruit such as lemons all contain large amounts of acid. Use a straw to pull acidic drinks to the back of your mouth and don’t swish acid liquids around in your mouth before swallowing.
Rinse your mouth with water immediately after eating or drinking anything acidic to clean the acids off your teeth.
Sugars and starches
Foods that are high in sugar or starch increase the acid content in the mouth for several hours after you eat.