Toothpaste commercials love to focus on the dangers of cavities and tooth decay. That’s because they understand the importance of dental cleaning. However, what is rarely mentioned is enamel erosion. Your tooth enamel is the hard, outermost layer of your teeth. It protects your teeth but can be worn down by acids, plaque, and tartar buildup.
Erosion plays an important role in the development of tooth decay and cavities. The decay process begins with bacteria that forms in your mouth. The bacteria create acids when they come into contact with sugar, which can erode the enamel of your teeth. The good news is you can stop tooth enamel erosion and even reverse it with proper care. Here, we explain the risks of enamel erosion and offer six simple ways you can stop it.
Acid and Erosion
As mentioned, your mouth is host to a slew of different bacteria. Although some of the bacteria are actually healthy, the bacteria that create dental plaque are not. Plaque is actually a film of bacteria that is very sticky and colourless. The bacteria thrive on sugar, which is why we always tell you to avoid sugary drinks and snacks. When you do indulge in sugar, the bacteria produce acids which eat away at your enamel.
Signs of erosion include:
- Rounded teeth
Although we will look for these signs at your regular dental checkups, you can also let us know if you are concerned about erosion.
Your mouth has its defences to help fight the ill effects of acid. Minerals such as calcium and phosphate occur naturally in your saliva. When combined with fluoride, water, and other sources, you stand a fighting chance to protect your teeth from acid.
Your teeth lose and regain minerals naturally throughout the day, helping to reduce the amount of acid in your mouth. However, you can provide a little help to maintain those minerals.
How do cavities form?
With tons of sugar and poor oral hygiene, your teeth are exposed to acid too frequently. Every candy, dessert, and sugary drink that you enjoy allows acid to continue to attack your enamel. The first sign of decay is the development of a white spot. This indicates areas where minerals have been lost.
At this point, it’s not too late to stop tooth decay. In fact, you can reverse the process and help the enamel repair itself.
Unfortunately, most people don’t spot the white specks, and tooth decay is allowed to progress. As the decay continues, your teeth lose vital minerals, and the enamel is weakened. Once the enamel is destroyed, a cavity is formed.
What is a cavity?
A cavity causes permanent damage to your tooth, where it causes a hole to form. Although the hole can be repaired to stop decay, when not repaired, decay will continue, and the cavity will deepen. This can lead to far more severe issues, including infection and the need for a root canal.
Can erosion be avoided?
There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risk of erosion, tooth decay, and cavities, including:
Fluoride can not only help prevent tooth decay but also reverse or stop it in its early stages. It prevents mineral loss and replaces lost minerals while reducing bacteria’s ability to make acid.
There are many ways you can get fluoride:
- Drinking fluoridated water, which is found in tap water
- Fluoride toothpaste
- Fluoride gel or varnish applied at our office
- Prescribed fluoride tablets
- Fluoride mouth rinse
When using fluoride products at home, always be certain to spit out the mouthwash or toothpaste to avoid ingesting it. This will help avoid consuming more than the recommended dose.
2. Healthy diet
Diet is important because, as already mentioned, foods and drinks containing sugar or starches create acid when the bacteria in your mouth uses it to produce acids. Avoid foods such as:
- Between-meal snacks (even healthy ones)
- Candy, cookies, soda, and other sugary drinks
- Citrus juices and fruit
- Any form of sweet sticky foods, including dried fruit
Also, wash down acidic foods with water to help remove them from your mouth. Using a straw when enjoying acidic beverages will reduce contact with your teeth.
3. Brushing and flossing
Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day is one of your best defences against erosion. Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing after eating. Because acid softens your enamel, brushing immediately after eating can actually damage your enamel.
Flossing will remove food debris from between your teeth, which can then be rinsed away when you brush.
Dental sealants are applied at our office to protect molars from decay. They are applied in a thin layer that coats the surface of your molars. This is often recommended for children, as molars have natural pits and crevices where bacteria can hide. When the food and bacteria get stuck in these pits and grooves, your toothbrush bristles have trouble removing them. The sealant will stop decay by providing a protective shield.
5. Regular dental checkups and cleanings
Regular cleanings and examinations provide extra protection against erosion:
- Cleanings remove dental plaque
- Checkups detect early tooth decay
- Hygienists provide tips on proper oral hygiene
- If required, a fluoride gel or varnish can be applied
Just two appointments a year provide all of these benefits to help you reduce the risk of erosion.
6. Treat stomach acid
If you suffer from acid reflux and chronic heartburn, this can cause tooth damage. When stomach acid comes into contact with your teeth, it can cause serious erosion. It can also be risky for those with an eating disorder or related conditions that increase stomach acids. These conditions produce more acid that remains in your mouth. If this is the case, seek professional help for treatment to reduce stomach acids.
The risk of enamel erosion helps show you why teeth cleaning is so important. If you would like to schedule a cleaning appointment with our team at Guelph Family Dentistry, then click here.