Some of us are born with weak enamel. Even the healthiest patients can have genetic issues that make caring for their teeth more challenging. However, diet, lifestyle and oral hygiene also help strengthen our teeth’s natural protective layer. We can protect our enamel even if we’re not blessed with naturally tough teeth. Let’s look at what causes enamel erosion and how we can stop it.
Why Is My Tooth Enamel Weak?
Did you know that tooth enamel is the hardest tissue in your body? It protects your teeth like a champ but can also be delicate and prone to chipping and breaking. Your tooth enamel is the thin outer layer on your teeth. It’s translucent, so the color of your teeth is actually determined by the dentin layer below. That’s why your teeth can look yellow when your enamel erodes: your dentin layer is showing through. Some causes of weak enamel include:
- Genetics plays a significant role in enamel erosion. Your family may be prone to enamel defects and hypomineralization (when your enamel lacks essential minerals like calcium and fluoride).
- Drinking too many sodas or sugary drinks can erode your enamel. These beverages (including diet sodas) are highly acidic and wear away enamel.
- Sour foods and candy are also highly acidic and can damage tooth enamel.
- Alcohol abuse can put acidic beverages in contact with your enamel. It can also cause vomiting, which exposes your enamel to stomach acids.
- Dry mouth: saliva helps your mouth wash away acids and bacteria. When your saliva flow is low, it can weaken enamel.
- Acid reflux disease and other gastrointestinal problems can bring stomach acid in contact with your tooth enamel.
- Eating disorders, including bulimia, can weaken tooth enamel because of poor nutrition or vomiting.
- Some medications can weaken tooth enamel, including antibiotics, antihistamines, decongestants and antacids.
- Teeth grinding or clenching can weaken your enamel.
- Brushing your teeth too hard or using a toothbrush with hard bristles causes abrasion.
What Are the Signs of Weak Enamel?
If you have any of the following signs of enamel erosion, see your dentist:
- Cracks and chips
- Sensitivity to temperature
- Severe pain when you bite or eat or drink something hot or cold.
- Indentations in the teeth known as cupping
- White spots
Why Do My Teeth Have White Spots?
White spots can be caused by a condition known as enamel hypoplasia. It occurs when genetics or prenatal vitamin deficiencies lead to weak enamel. Other causes of white spots include:
- Mineral depletion from wearing braces. When bacteria gets stuck under brackets, it can deplete calcium and other minerals. It’s essential to take good care of your teeth and continue to see your family dentist for cleanings when you get orthodontic care.
- Dental Fluorosis: in this case, too much fluoride can cause white spots in young children as their teeth develop. High fluoride levels in drinking water, eating toothpaste or using too much fluoride mouth rinse can cause fluorosis. We generally see white spots in mild cases and larger white areas, pitting or brown stains in more severe cases.
How Can I Keep My Tooth Enamel Strong?
Even if you have a genetic propensity for weak enamel, there are steps you can take to protect your teeth:
- Limit acidic food and drinks, including sodas, wine, candy and citrus.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Rinse with water after eating sugary or acidic foods.
- Limit snacking.
- Talk with your primary care provider about medications and their impact on oral health.
- If you have a condition that causes vomiting or reflux, work with your primary care provider to get treatment.
- Use an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride helps strengthen your enamel.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush gently but thoroughly.
- See your family dentist for checkups/cleanings twice a year
- Talk with your family dentist about sealants to protect your molars from enamel erosion and decay.
Your Family Dentist is Your Partner in Keeping Enamel Strong
Keeping your enamel strong and healthy from childhood through the senior years is a priority for your family dentist. At Hall Family Dentistry, we’re now on our second and third generations. One of the advantages of seeing a family dentist is that he knows your family history. But even if you have challenges with weak enamel, regular checkups allow us to make sure you’re on the right path with diet and oral hygiene. We can also recommend preventive measures like sealants, which are tremendously effective in protecting enamel on your molars. Be sure to share any concerns or new medical treatments with your dentist. Let’s keep that enamel strong as the first line of defense for healthy teeth.