What is tooth enamel and what is it made of?
The hardest substance in our entire body is tooth enamel. Due to this extraordinary degree of hardness, processing the tooth enamel is only possible with diamond-studded dental tools. Tooth enamel is the outermost white layer around the teeth and consists largely of hydroxyapatite and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and sodium. The enamel forms a layer about 2.5 millimeters thick on the teeth. The tooth enamel layer does not contain any nerve tissue, which on one hand makes it particularly resistant, but on the other hand also prevents tooth enamel, once broken down, from being regenerated in a natural way. For this reason, it is particularly important to use the right dental care products to protect tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay.
What is the purpose of tooth enamel?
The tooth enamel covers the dentin and protects it from wear, damage and bacteria as well as from decalcification caused by acidic foods and drinks. In contrast to tooth enamel, the dentin is traversed by nerves, so the enamel layer also protects the tooth from the sensation of pain. The more the tooth enamel is broken down, the more sensitive the tooth is to heat, cold or acid, for example. Due to its special hardness, it also gives the teeth the strength they need to chew even hard foods without damaging the teeth.
What causes tooth enamel to be destroyed?
Two factors play a crucial role in tooth enamel loss. Mechanical abrasion and chemical action, erosion. Mechanical abrasion occurs every day, for example when chewing, and is natural. However, there are some factors that cause more abrasion than the enamel can withstand. These include, among other things, regular grinding of teeth, toothbrushes that are too hard and highly abrasive toothpastes. At the same time, the regular confrontation of the tooth enamel with acid leads to a breakdown of the tooth substance. Tooth enamel is softened by acid, making it easier to wear away. For this reason, you should avoid brushing your teeth for at least half an hour after eating. Due to the increased exposure to acid, the tooth enamel becomes thinner and less resistant. In addition, bacteria gain entry. Abrasion and erosion also interact with each other. Due to abrasion, the tooth enamel thins and reacts more sensitively to acid. At the same time, acid softens the tooth enamel and promotes tooth enamel breakdown through abrasion.
Which foods and drinks can damage tooth enamel?
It's not just foods and drinks that contain a lot of sugar that are dangerous to tooth enamel. When it comes to tooth enamel, the pH value is particularly important, as the foods are divided into three groups. With a pH value between 2.5 and 3.5, foods in group 1 are considered to be particularly acidic and therefore harmful to tooth enamel. These include apples, fruit jam and orange juice. Group 2 foods also increase the risk of tooth enamel degradation with a pH value between 3.6 to 4.5. Group 2 includes, for example, cherries, tomatoes and cream cheese. Group 3, on the other hand, is considered almost neutral in terms of acid content and has neither a positive nor negative effect on tooth enamel. Foods in this group have a pH value of 4.6 to 5.5, such as pickles and cottage cheese. In addition, sugary foods and drinks can affect the tooth enamel through tooth decay bacteria.
Which foods have a positive effect on tooth enamel?
Foods that stimulate saliva production, such as various types of cheese, have positive effects on tooth enamel. With more saliva, acids can be neutralized more quickly and therefore cause less damage to tooth enamel. In addition, green and black tea are considered to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Dairy products can also have a positive effect by strengthening the teeth thanks to the calcium they contain and also neutralizing acids. In this way, fruit can be consumed in a much gentler way, for example in combination with yogurt.
How do you recognize tooth enamel degradation?
Tooth enamel degradation often only becomes noticeable when the tooth enamel has already been worn away to a certain extent. This is due to the fact that the tooth enamel is not penetrated by nerves and the degradation itself does not cause pain. The first signs are usually an increasing reaction of the teeth to hot and cold as well as sweet and sour foods. The yellowish color of the teeth provides an additional indication, as the tooth enamel weakens and the yellowish colour of the dentin becomes more visible. If severe pain occurs when chewing, frequent inflammation of the gums or bleeding gums when flossing, the tooth enamel is often already considered damaged. The tooth is no longer adequately protected from caries and wear.
How can tooth enamel loss be treated?
Since tooth enamel is dead tissue without nerves and blood vessels, it cannot be rebuilt by the body. There is already intensive research into artificial tooth enamel, but it is not yet mature enough to be integrated into everyday life. However, dentistry offers some approaches to slow or even stop tooth enamel loss. Tooth enamel that has already been damaged can be treated with fluoride jelly to stop demineralization and prevent reaction to acids. It is also recommended to use a toothpaste with hydroxyapatite, which is what tooth enamel mainly consists of.
How can you strengthen tooth enamel and prevent it from deteriorating?
The best way to combat tooth enamel loss is to prevent it early enough with various measures and to strengthen and protect the tooth enamel. Brushing your teeth regularly is important for oral hygiene, but there are a few points to keep in mind. The toothbrush used should not be too hard and highly abrasive toothpastes should be avoided. At the same time, it is important to use a gentle cleaning technique to avoid unnecessary abrasion when cleaning. The effect on tooth enamel should also be taken into account when it comes to diet and the consumption of excessively acidic foods and drinks, especially lemonades, should be reduced. A toothpaste containing fluoride can additionally strengthen the enamel with minerals, as can a mouthwash containing fluoride, which also protects the tooth from acid. In addition, a fluoride jelly or a toothpaste with hydroxyapatite can also counteract the breakdown of tooth enamel.
Another important factor is regular checks of the health of the teeth by the dentist. Professional teeth cleaning carried out regularly by the dentist also helps to maintain dental health. In addition, after cleaning, the teeth receive fluoridation to harden the tooth enamel and increase resistance to bacteria. If bacteria cannot adhere, the development of tooth decay is unlikely.
Especially since tooth enamel once lost cannot be restored naturally, it is all the more important to protect it from degradation through abrasion and erosion. To do this, you should avoid using toothbrushes that are too hard or highly abrasive whitening toothpastes. The consumption of particularly acidic foods and drinks should also be reduced. As the hardest substance in the body, tooth enamel protects the sensitive dentin. If the tooth enamel is damaged, the result can be pain in the teeth when they come into contact with heat, cold and acid, as well as an increased risk of tooth decay.