We’ve all heard of tooth enamel and know that it is an integral part in keeping our teeth strong and healthy, but did you know that decay in your enamel can lead to painful cavities? Luckily, enamel decays slowly and in stages, so knowing the first signs of decay can help you launch into action to prevent further damage. Keeping up with a diligent oral healthcare routine is the first phase of keeping your enamel strong and healthy, but today we’re delving into what else you can do to keep your teeth strong and cavity-free!
Enamel is the hardest substance in your body, comprised mostly of a mineral known as hydroxyapatite along with other similar minerals. Its natural color is slightly yellow to light grayish, however its translucent nature means that it will often take the color of the layer beneath it, known as dentin. Because enamel is not made up of living cells, you won’t feel when it starts to fade away. Acid erosion is the main cause of enamel loss, and when enamel wears away entirely, it does not grow back.
Bacteria to Blame
The primary cause of enamel erosion is a bacteria known as streptococcus mutans, and it is present in your mouth from the time your first teeth erupt. This bacteria will combine with starches and sugars to form a sticky substance known as plaque, which other bacteria can then cling to as well. These bacteria will work to convert sugar into acid, which will slowly wear away the enamel through demineralization.
Luckily, enamel erosion does not happen instantly. At the beginning, enamel decay is reversible and enamel can be remineralized. Even though enamel can be remineralized, cavities will form quickly as enamel is damaged. When at this stage of decay, only a dentist will be able to treat it. One telltale sign of demineralization is a white patch on your tooth. At this point, changing your oral health habits is vital to prevent further damage. As enamel continues to decay, the area will turn light brown and then dark brown. Eventually, the enamel will wear off and acids will reach the soft inner part of the tooth, causing a cavity. If left untreated, the cavity will grow larger and become more painful over time.
Unfortunately, once enamel is lost it cannot be regrown. Fortunately, though, even damaged enamel can be restrengthened with the help of fluoride! According to recent studies, coating teeth repeatedly in small concentrations of fluoride can help enamel to harden and prevent existing decay from progressing. Maintaining a diligent, twice-daily brushing regimen, flossing daily, and using a fluoride mouthwash can help keep your tooth decay from progressing! Your dentist can also administer a targeted fluoride treatment to help protect teeth and remineralize your enamel.
Even though enamel is the hardest substance in the body, it needs to be looked after and protected. If you have questions about how you can maintain strong enamel, or want to schedule a routine dental check-up, give us a call at Advanced Family Dental & Orthodontics of Mt. Olive today to schedule your next appointment!