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Understanding Enamel – What is it and why do I Need it?

Tooth enamel, you have probably heard your dentist make a comment about the enamel on your teeth at some point and this may have left you wondering, “What is enamel and why is it so important?” Well, the enamel on your teeth serves a very important role in protecting your teeth.

Enamel – What is it?

Tooth enamel is the hard outer layer that protects the tooth/teeth from decay. This substance is actually considered the hardest mineral substance found in your entire body, even stronger than bone. Enamel covers the entire crown of the tooth which is the part of the that’s visible above of the gumline.

Its Job – Why Do I Need it?

Enamel protects your teeth from daily use such as chewing, biting, crunching, and grinding. Enamel also insulates the teeth from potentially painful temperatures and chemicals.

What Happens if It’s Damaged?

Even though enamel is incredibly strong, common foods and drinks can damage/cause erosion to it, which is irreversible. Unlike a broken bone that can be repaired, enamel has no living cells and, therefore, the body cannot repair damaged enamel.

What Causes Erosion/Damage?

Foods and drinks with high acid content that we frequently consume can be a culprit in eroding tooth enamel. Many of the healthiest and nutritionally dense foods, see below, can contain very high levels of acidity. This means that you should simply take extra precautions when consuming these types of foods by drinking water to rinse the teeth after eating or drinking them and if possible brushing after eating and drinking.

Foods With Very High Acidity Levels:

Lemon Juice
Sports Drinks
Tonic Water
Iced Tea
Grapefruit Juice
Apple Juice
Salad Dressing
Orange Juice

Not only can foods cause damage, but other environmental factors may also play a role, such as:

Attrition: Natural tooth-to-tooth friction that happens when you clench or grind your teeth.

Abrasion: This is physical wear and tear of the tooth surface that happens with brushing teeth too hard, improper flossing, biting on hard objects (such as fingernails, bottle caps, or pens), or chewing tobacco.

Abfraction: This occurs from stress fractures in the tooth such as cracks from flexing or bending of the tooth.

Have more questions about tooth enamel? Ask your hygienist or dentist on your next visit!