Can You Restore Tooth Enamel? An Expert Guide
Imagine your tooth enamel as a superhero’s armor. It’s made of the strongest substance in your body, even tougher than bones. It coats your teeth, taking on the daily rigors of biting, chewing, and sheltering your teeth from temperature fluctuations.
But, as with any good armor, signs of wear and tear will begin to show at some point. What happens then? Can you restore tooth enamel? Let us walk you through an in-depth guide.
What Is Tooth Enamel?
Tooth enamel is the glossy outer covering of your teeth that makes your teeth white. Its composition contains hydroxyapatite, an incredibly tough substance in your body.
Underneath it lies the dentin, a tough (but softer) layer made of living cells. Dentin is fragile, so the body coats it in enamel to protect it from forces and temperature changes. Without teeth enamel, cold beverages become torture, and tough meats feel impossible to eat.
As tough as it is, tooth enamel isn’t invincible. It’s susceptible to damage and cannot regenerate on its own like other tissues in your body.
Why Does Tooth Enamel Erode?
Made of mostly minerals, tooth enamel’s enemy is acidity. Coming not just from foods and drinks, a highly acidic environment is also a result of:
- Bacteria: Bacteria in the mouth can produce certain acids that lower the mouth’s pH.
- Stomach acid: If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach acid can go up into the mouth and erode tooth enamel.
- Dry mouth: Lack of saliva makes it less possible to neutralize the acids in your mouth.
- Medications: Antihistamines and diuretics, for example, can cause dry mouth and erode the enamel.
- Eating disorders: Eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia, can also raise the mouth environment’s acidity level.
- Genetics: Some people are more likely to have tooth enamel erosion due to their genetics.
Symptoms of Tooth Enamel Erosion
Once your tooth enamel starts to erode, you might notice certain changes.
- Teeth Sensitivity: If your teeth give you an unsettling tingling sensation when you drink hot and cold beverages, it’s an early sign of enamel erosion.
- Discoloration: Since enamel is white and comes in a super thin layer, your teeth will turn yellow as it corrodes. That’s the natural color of the dentin underneath, showing through the thinning enamel.
- Teeth Cracks and Chips: Enamel that is thinning also breaks and chips easily. On a more subtle note, you can feel your teeth with your finger and find roughness or indentations on the surface. That’s a physically vivid sign of enamel erosion.
- Cavity: a weakened enamel paves the way for bacteria to attack the dentin layer. If left for long enough, you might notice black spots on the surface of your teeth that are cavities, which require treatments to avoid complications.
Can You Restore Tooth Enamel?
Unfortunately, the body doesn’t have this function. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. The dentin layer isn’t capable of producing more enamel to fill the slots, nor can the body send help of some sort.
However, there are synthetic treatments to strengthen a thinning enamel, as well as home remedies to avoid further erosion.
How to Strengthen Tooth Enamel and Prevent Tooth Enamel Erosion
The ultimate care for your enamel is a multi-approach: at-home care and professional treatments.
- Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is a traditional Indian remedy that involves swishing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth for about 20 minutes. The oil acts like an antiseptic mouthwash that pulls bacteria out of areas your toothbrush can’t reach, potentially reducing enamel erosion.
Traditionally, sesame oil was used for oil pulling, but other oils such as coconut oil, sunflower oil or olive oil have also been used.
It should be followed by a thorough brushing with toothpaste for a total cleanse.
Of course, a real antiseptic mouthwash would be a better alternative, giving a fresh sensation in just minutes.
- Using Fluoride Toothpaste
If your tooth enamel is eroding, it would really appreciate a supply of fluoride. Doing so lets you remineralize it and prevent further erosion. Almost all branded toothpaste now contains fluoride, but it’s always safe to have a quick check on the ingredients list.
To make extra sure, you can follow the brushing repertoire with a fluoride mouthwash.
- Cleaning the Tongue
Tongue cleaning is an important step that doesn’t get enough attention. It has nooks and crannies that harbor bacteria, in turn raising the mouth’s acidity level and contributing to enamel erosion.
There are special tools to clean the tongue, but a toothbrush would do. After teeth brushing, spend just 15-30 to brush the entire surface of your tongue as well, and it’s considered relatively clean.
- Avoiding Acidic Foods and Drinks
Acidic substances, like soft drinks (sugar or sugar-free) and citrus fruits, can erode your enamel. Try to limit these in your diet, but if you can’t, give your mouth a plain water rinse right after consumption.
- Chewing Sugar-Free Gum
Chewing gum doesn’t just help to remove stuck food particles. The body produces saliva as you chew something, so this method increases saliva production and creates a neutral pH environment.
Certain brands of gum also contain xylitol. This is a sugar alcohol naturally occurring in fruits, which helps to eradicate bacteria.
- Dental Bonding
If your enamel erosion is severe, usually coming with cavities, dental bonding is what most dentists will suggest. They will apply a tooth-colored resin to the affected teeth, protecting them from further damage.
- Dental Crowns
For extensive erosions, a dental crown might be the best option. This is a cap that fits over the entire tooth, providing a new surface for chewing. Dental crowns can be permanent or removable.
⇒ Maybe you’ll be interested in: Which Food Do You Need to Avoid with Tooth Crowns?
- Veneers and Bridges
Veneers (thin, tooth-colored shells) or bridges (a series of connected crowns) are a more affordable alternative to dental crowns. They’re used to cover damaged teeth and improve your smile.
Conclusion: Consult a Dental Professional at NYC Smiles
Can you restore tooth enamel? While it can’t be restored, professional dental care exists to aid your enamel and prevent further erosion. Regular check-ups can catch enamel erosion in its early stages before it leads to more serious problems.
Can Tooth Enamel Be Restored? (n.d.). Can Tooth Enamel Be Restored? https://www.colgate.ie/oral-health/adult-oral-care/can-tooth-enamel-be-restored
Can Tooth Enamel Grow Back? (n.d.). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/can-tooth-enamel-grow-back