Enamel, the hard coating on the surface of the teeth, is designed to last long even though wear and tear occurs throughout one's lifetime. “This is the hardest substance in the body," says Leslie Seldin, DDS, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. There are a number of ways by which one can protect it and keep it strong.
Here are a few tips to save the enamel:
Limit sugary soft drinks and foods – Enamel is affected by the production of acids in the mouth by the sugar content in some foods, especially sugary soft drinks. Apart from sugar, soft drinks contain a good amount of citric and phosphoric acid, which makes it even more acidic. Soft drinks containing artificial sweeteners may be soft on sweet but do contain acids which may erode the enamel. The best choice to quench the thirst is always a glass of water. Chewy candies also cause considerable damage as they stick to the teeth.
Have foods that protect the enamel – Calcium content in food helps to neutralize the acids in the mouth. This mineral is also important in keeping the bones strong. “Some of the foods that may help to protect and strengthen enamel include milk, cheese, and other dairy products," says Pamela L. Quinones, RDH, president of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. One can reduce the amount of calories by choosing low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Calcium-fortified orange juice also is a good choice to include more calcium in diet.
Do not over brush – Brushing too hard may wear down tooth enamel. Seldin recommends using a soft brush for gentle brushing. One should hold the brush at 45? to the gums and move it back and forth in short strokes, she says. Brushing immediately after eating sweets and citrus fruits makes the enamel more susceptible to damage. This is because the acid produced in the mouth temporarily softens the enamel. Always brush after an hour of eating sweets and acidic foods, which will give ample time for the enamel to reharden.
Treat heart-burn and eating disorders – Stomach acids are regurgitated into the mouth with severe heartburn and this may erode the enamel. People with eating disorders like bulimia, where they vomit the food after eating, also have more chances of enamel erosion because of the acidic content in the mouth. Treat these disorders to protect the enamel coating.
Avoid swimming pools with too much chlorination – Swimming pools that have too much chlorine in the water may be too acidic and can cause the exposed tooth to erode. About 15% of frequent swimmers had symptoms of tooth erosion, when compared to 3% of the people who do not swim, according to a study conducted by Centers for Disease Control. Ensure that the pool pH is checked periodically to avoid having acidic water. Keeping the mouth closed while swimming will also prevent exposure to acidic water.
Avoid having dry mouth – People with dry mouth or very less saliva production often show signs of eroding enamel. Saliva in the mouth helps to clean the food and bacteria that cause cavities. Saliva can also neutralize acidic foods. Drinking plenty of water helps to keep the mouth clean and moist. People who exercise strenuously should remember to rehydrate after the workout. Saliva production can be stimulated by chewing on sugarless candies. If you have any of the medical conditions that cause dry mouth, get it treated immediately to protect your tooth enamel.
Do not grind the teeth – Some people have the habit of grinding their teeth, especially during the night. “Grinding can wear down enamel and lead to its erosion”, says Richard Price, DMD, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. Using tooth guards can protect the teeth from damage.
Be serious about checkups – Getting a general checkup and teeth cleaning done every six months is the most ideal way to keep the enamel strong. This will help to identify cavities or tooth grinding, which may damage enamel. Dentists can also ensure that you are getting the required amount of fluoride, which hardens and protects tooth enamel.