3 simple tips for protecting your enamel
SUMMARY: Enamel is the tooth's defensive shell that protects against harmful substances, and erosion of this shell can't be reversed. That's why it's so important to keep your enamel strong and healthy.
Posted: March 17, 2014
When it comes to caring for their mouths, many people focus mainly on keeping their teeth white, maintaining fresh breath and avoiding gum disease. But too often they neglect one essential component of oral health: strong enamel. As the outer covering of the teeth, the tissue acts as a protective shell. In fact, it's the hardest part of the human body, defending against everyday chewing and grinding as well as temperature and painful chemicals. Deteriorated enamel can lead to a whole host of oral issues, from dingy-looking teeth to an increased risk of periodontal disease. While some wear and tear is unavoidable, too much is detrimental to the mouth. And unlike other parts of the body, enamel can't be restored or repaired naturally. That's why it's essential to keep your enamel strong early on. Try some of these basic tips:
Limit your sugar intake
It's no big news that sugar can be bad for the teeth. When left to linger in the mouth, it creates extra lactic acid that softens and, with time, wears away at enamel. While candies, soft drinks, cookies and other common sweets are high in sugar, many healthy foods have a surprising amount of sugar. Fruits, cereal, tea and bread also contain sugars that can, if left in the mouth for too long, lead to enamel deterioration. The best bet is to stick to nature's greatest beverage - water - when you're feeling parched. Sugarless foods and candies are a good alternative, but note that artificial sweetener can also contain acids that erode the coating of the teeth over time. You should also brush your teeth after eating sweets, but keep in mind that acidic foods soften the enamel temporarily and make it easier to damage, so wait up to an hour before brushing.
Don't brush too hard
Speaking of brushing your teeth - brushing too intensely can wear away at the enamel. Using a small amount of toothpaste, hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums and use gentle, tooth-length strokes. Be sure to pay attention to the gum? line and crowns, but don't forget about the back teeth, areas around fillings and other spots that tend to accumulate debris. The entire process should take two minutes, and it's best to use a soft-bristle brush that isn't too hard on the enamel. It's also essential to choose the right toothpaste for your specific oral needs - ask your dentist if you require a special type to treat sensitivity, tartar, gum disease or another condition.
Watch out for dry mouth
People too often shrug off dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, as just everyday thirst, but it can cause real damage to the mouth if left untreated. It occurs when the body can't produce enough saliva or your saliva is depleted for another reason. That moistness in the mouth is essential for washing away sugars and other substances that can cause cavities. Certain medications and lifestyle habits like smoking can lead to xerostomia, but ailments that cause vomiting, fever and sweating can also become culprits.
Along with leading to sores in the mouth, cracked lips, a burning sensation in the mouth and rawness of the tongue, this oral issue can be a symptom of more serious illnesses and diseases. It might be a signifier of diabetes, hypertension, mumps, anemia or Parkinson's disease. For that reason, it's important to see your dentist if you're experiencing prolonged dry mouth. He or she may recommend medications to resolve dry mouth or suggest that you see your primary health care provider. There are also some temporary fixes you can turn to in the meantime to keep your mouth moisturized, including chewing sugar-free gum and drinking lots of water.