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What is Enamel and How Does it Work?

Posted on: October 26th, 2016 | Categories: Dental Tips, Oral Health

If you’ve ever been to the dentist, then you’ve heard them talk about enamel. Dentists spend a lot of time talking to their patients about enamel, plaque, and tooth decay. But, to really understand how to keep your teeth healthy, you have to know what enamel is and how best to take care of it. Here is a beginners guide to understanding enamel.

What is enamel?

Enamel is a protective layer that covers each and every tooth. It is a hard substance on the outer part of your teeth and is seen every time you look into your mouth. Enamel is considered the hardest substance in the human body, even harder than bones. However, it can decay when exposed to acid and a build-up of bacteria in the mouth.

What does enamel do?

Enamel is there to protect teeth from decay and damage. Every time you eat and drink, you expose your teeth to acids and bacteria in your food. This would seriously harm teeth if it weren’t for enamel. Enamel works as a protective shield against acid and bacteria as well as shielding your teeth from hot or cold foods. When enamel is damaged or starts to decay, sensitivity to hot and cold foods can occur.

If you feel pain when eating or experience sensitivity to hot or cold, visit your dentist to find out what you can do to repair your enamel.

What damages enamel?

There are many foods that can damage enamel, but sugary foods, or foods with a high citrus content are the worst offenders. Drinks high in sugar, like soda is the number one culprit. Soda is high in sugar and very acidic, this combination wears away enamel. Candy is also a serious offender. The high sugar levels in candy increase the risk for decay, so avoid it whenever possible.

Fruit juice and citrus fruits can also harm enamel. The difference, however, is that citrus fruits have health benefits. Don’t cut fruits from your diet just because you are afraid to harm your enamel. Instead, try eating them in moderation and alongside foods that are neutral so that you are not giving your teeth a double dose of acidity.

How do I know if the enamel is damaged?

It may take some time for you to notice the loss of your enamel because the changes are very subtle. First you will feel pain or sensitivity when eating certain foods. As the erosion progresses, you will notice a yellow discoloration on your teeth. This yellow color signals an exposure of dentin. Your teeth may also appear more rounded, chipped, and rough.

If you have severe erosion your dentist may recommend that the tooth be removed. Taking good care of your teeth through brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits is the best way to protect your enamel and prevent decay, so that more serious measures won’t need to be taken in the future.

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