The Importance of Tooth Enamel
Probably the most important aspect of your tooth is your tooth enamel. But what exactly is it? And how do you keep your tooth enamel strong and healthy?
What Is Tooth Enamel?
So we assume that if you are reading this, you know what a tooth is. But do you know what your tooth is made up of? Most people have a vague idea of what goes into a tooth. There are four main parts of a tooth. On the very inside of the tooth is the pulp. This is where the nerve endings are, and this is what can get infected. When we perform root canal therapy, we are treating the pulp of the tooth.
The next layer, the dentin, surrounds the pulp. And then on the lower bottom sides of the teeth, you’ll find the cementum. This is a calcified substance that helps keep the tooth adhered to the gums.
On the top of the tooth, and surrounding the entire crown, is the enamel. It covers and protects the dentin and the pulp.
What Is Tooth Enamel Made of?
Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body. That's right, it’s even harder than your bones. Tooth enamel is highly mineralized. That means it has a lot of minerals in it. You probably won’t recognize the names of the actual substances in tooth enamel, but they include hydroxyapatite crystal, which makes up the bulk of the enamel, and non-collagenous protein components (amelogenins and non-amelogenins).
Why Is Tooth Enamel Important?
Tooth enamel is important because it protects the tooth. Enamel also helps makes your tooth functional. Without the strength of the tooth enamel, you would not be able to chew your food. We also need our teeth to be able to speak clearly. So tooth enamel not only makes it possible for you to eat, it makes it possible for you to communicate.
How Can Tooth Enamel Be Damaged?
Tooth enamel can be damaged in a variety of ways. It can be damaged by the bacteria that feeds off plaque and tartar. If this bacteria gets lodged into the tooth, it can start to eat away at the tooth enamel. This then leads to what’s called a cavity. The cavity is when the tooth enamel has been worn away and the dentin and/or pulp is exposed.
Bacteria thrive in the mouth when we eat lots of sugary foods and don’t brush and floss as much as we should. But even if you use the best dental hygiene, you still need to come into Dentists of Whittier for professional teeth cleanings. This is because plaque and tartar buildup can get to the point where you won’t be able to clean it off at home. Plaque and tartar enable bacteria to grow, which then damages the tooth enamel more.
Tooth enamel can also be damaged in other ways. For example, over-the-counter teeth whitening strips can actually damage the tooth enamel. This is because the substances used to whiten teeth can often be abrasive and eat away at the enamel.
How Do Foods and Smoking Impact Tooth Enamel?
Acidic foods can also eat away at tooth enamel. This can include anything from drinks such as colas and fruit juices to numerous common foods, including what you might think of as healthy foods like apples and citrus fruits. Also, habits such as smoking or chewing tobacco can damage your tooth enamel.
By the way, marijuana is not off the hook here. When you smoke marijuana, you can also damage the tooth enamel. This is because smoking increases acidity in the mouth, which leads to demineralization. When the minerals are removed from a tooth’s enamel, it’s greatly weakened.
What Happens When Tooth Enamel Is Lost?
Because tooth enamel protects your teeth, when your tooth enamel becomes eroded and weakened, your teeth are less protected and more vulnerable. This means that your teeth may become more sensitive to hot and cold. Your teeth will also be more prone to breakage. In other words, you’ll be more likely to chip a tooth if your tooth enamel is thin. Finally, weak tooth enamel is associated with more cavities. So, if your tooth enamel is weak, you will need to be extra careful to brush and floss to mitigate cavities.
Can Tooth Enamel Regenerate?
Once the adult teeth come in, that’s all the enamel you’re ever going to have. Tooth enamel does not regenerate and it does not regrow. Once you damage your tooth enamel, that’s it. You cannot grow new tooth enamel to replace the old enamel that was lost.
Can Tooth Enamel Be Repaired?
The good news is that existing tooth enamel can be repaired and strengthened. What we do to repair tooth enamel is to remineralize it. This means we are encouraging the enamel to regain some of the minerals it has lost. The easiest way to do this is with a fluoride treatment.
What Is a Fluoride Treatment?
A professional fluoride treatment is a safe, easy and completely painless process. All you need to do is come to our office at Dentists of Whittier, and we will treat your enamel with fluoride. We do this by using a special gel that’s put into comfortable trays. You’ll just sit with those trays in your mouth for a short period of time. And then when you’re done, we will rinse your mouth out, and you can go home.
Professional fluoride treatment is highly affordable, and many dental insurance companies cover it, either in part or in whole. It’s a common treatment for children to help prevent cavities as well.
Get Your Tooth Enamel Checked in Whitter, CA
If you are concerned that your tooth enamel might be weak, come visit us at Dentists of Whittier. We can check your tooth enamel to see how strong it is. Then we will also look for cavities and other signs of issues. If your tooth enamel is weaker than it should be, we might be able to help by offering a fluoride treatment. Additionally, in certain cases, we might recommend a dental crown or other restorative dental procedure to strengthen the tooth. Schedule an appointment with us today to consult with our qualified dentist and dental assistants.
You can keep your tooth enamel healthy and strong. Contact us at Dentists of Whittier to schedule an appointment for yourself or your child. We can help maintain tooth enamel and keep your teeth healthy for years to come! Call today at (562) 414-5025.