In our dental practice, we often see patients who have lost enamel on their teeth. Enamel helps protect our teeth from decay, as well as harsh temperatures and chemicals. It is the hardest mineral substance in our body, but when it is compromised, it leaves the softer dentin layer of your teeth exposed, which leads to tooth sensitivity, discoloration, and risk of decay.
The easiest way to protect your enamel is by brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing your teeth. Maintaining a healthy diet will also help. Knowing what foods to avoid and which foods are good for your teeth can help combat the loss of tooth enamel.
What is Tooth Enamel?
Tooth enamel is a hard, protective substance that covers the crowns of our teeth. Made up of several minerals, the enamel is the hardest substance in the human body and is primarily composed of hydroxyapatite. This mineral component strengthens the structure and protects our teeth from everyday wear, such as biting and chewing. The primary components of tooth enamel include carbonate, fluoride, and magnesium. This combination binds together to form microscopic rods and tubes, contributing heavily to its strength.
In addition to protecting our teeth from outside forces, tooth enamel plays an important role in protecting us from bacteria, toxins, acids, and other dangerous substances that we consume or inhale daily. Its strong mineral content also helps us maintain healthy bones by providing a buffer against harmful acids that might otherwise cause cavities or more serious dental issues like gum disease if left unchecked. Tooth enamel serves as a crucial defense for maintaining good oral health overall — not only by keeping out damaging foreign substances but also by guarding against fractures or chips caused by trauma or excessive force in daily activities such as crunchy foods or grindings tasks like biting nails.
Foods That Are Bad for Tooth Enamel
When talking about food that is bad for your teeth, sweets and sugary foods are given. Bacteria in your teeth use sugars to create acids that wear away at your enamel. Soda can be highly damaging if not consumed in moderation because of its high sugar content. Sour gummy candies are especially harmful because they are acidic and stick to your teeth.
Acidic foods and drinks like tomatoes, citric fruits and fruit juice, pickles, alcohol, and coffee are also damaging. Alcohol and coffee are not only acidic; they dry out your mouth as well. Without enough saliva, germs can grow in our mouths and lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
Also, be careful with carbonated beverages. They don’t all have the same effect on tooth enamel. Carbonated beverages, such as soft drinks, carbonated juice drinks, and tonic water, include acids that can weaken tooth enamel. Even sugar-free soft drinks contain acids, so they are not a healthy alternative for your teeth. However, plain carbonated water without citric acid or sugar added does not cause tooth decay.
Related article: The Effects of Coffee on Your Teeth
Healthy Foods for Your Teeth
Knowing what foods to cut back on to protect your teeth is extremely important. It’s also important to know what foods can be beneficial for your teeth. When looking for foods that help to repair enamel, look for ones with calcium and protein. Cheese, yogurt (look for one with no added sugar!), almonds, and milk are all excellent sources of calcium and protein.
Leafy greens are perfect for oral health because they are high in calcium, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The fiber will increase saliva production to eliminate bacteria. Try to eat crunchy foods like apples and carrots at the end of a meal to increase the amount of saliva in your mouth and wash away leftover food particles. Foods high in phosphorus, like fish, red meat, and eggs, help to replace minerals in your teeth that may have been lost.
In addition to eating healthy foods, staying hydrated by drinking water and avoiding fruit juice and soda will help strengthen your teeth.
This infographic from Oris Dental does a great job of illustrating the best and worst foods for your teeth.
Repairing Lost Tooth Enamel
Once enamel is lost, it’s gone forever. However, all hope is not lost. In addition to improving your diet to try to minimize the damage, we also recommend using toothpaste, such as Sensodyne Repair and Protect, which contains stannous fluoride. Stannous fluoride provides a protective layer over the dentin of your teeth.
If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, we encourage you to discuss this with your dentist. At Ultimate Smile Design in Palm Bay, Florida, we will discuss options to treat lost tooth enamel and minimize the damage. Contact us for an appointment. We’d love to be your dentist!
This article was originally published on June 21, 2019 but has been updated for accuracy and freshness.