Understanding Tooth Enamel
Tooth enamel is the visible, outermost covering of your teeth. The color of healthy enamel varies from light yellow to a gray or blue-like white. It’s the hardest substance in the human body and contains a high percentage of minerals. These minerals provide enamel with the strength it needs to protect the teeth.
Did you know?
Enamel has an average thickness of 2.58 mm. That is roughly one tenth of an inch, or the size of a thin wedding band or a key. Yet, it effectively protects the sensitive inner layers of teeth from the acids that can wear them away and cause painful cavities to form.
Enamel also protects the nerves and cells inside your teeth from exposure to hot, cold, and acidic foods that can lead to sensitivity.
Tooth enamel cannot be restored
Since tooth enamel contains no living cells, it lacks the ability to regrow. Once it’s damaged, it cannot regenerate—leaving the softer layer underneath exposed.
Acid found in foods and drinks is the leading cause of damage to tooth enamel. Many acidic foods and drinks that make up our everyday diets, like fruits and fruit juices, many types of salad dressings, coffee, wine, and tomatoes, can weaken tooth enamel over time. This process is called acid erosion, and approximately 1 in every 3 young adults is already showing signs of it.
Other causes of acid erosion
The acid produced by oral bacteria, such as the bacteria in plaque, is another cause of acid erosion. When we eat or drink certain foods, the bacteria in plaque interact with the sugar to produce acid that attacks and demineralizes tooth enamel.
Normally, saliva helps to neutralize acidity and remineralize the tooth enamel. However, if enamel loses minerals faster than it can be remineralized, it weakens and becomes thinner over time. When this process happens, the sensitive inner layers of the tooth can decay and may need to be filled, repaired, or even extracted by a dentist.
Keeping enamel strong is important to maintaining good oral health. By taking simple steps every day, you can help protect your teeth from the effects of acid erosion.