Demineralization occurs whenever the mouth becomes too acidic, which occurs following eating and drinking. Saliva helps counteract the effects of acid and even helps restore some of the lost calcium and minerals found in the enamel, also known as remineralization. However, if acid levels remain too high for too long, it can limit saliva's ability to protect the teeth, which can cause long-term mineral loss to the enamel. Once erosion sets in, teeth are more prone to disease, decay, and tooth loss.
Some common signs of worn enamel include:
- Yellowing teeth
- Chipped or uneven tooth edges
- Dents on the surface of the teeth
- Increased tooth sensitivity
Practice Gentle Brushing
Over-brushing or vigorous brushing exerts undue pressure on your teeth, which scrapes away at the enamel and causes it to wear. It can also cause receding gums. As a rule of thumb, only brush twice a day and remember to take care when brushing your teeth to avoid eroding the enamel.
Use a Soft Bristle Brush
It is a common misconception that harder bristles will clean your teeth better, and therefore, lead to healthier teeth and gums, but this is simply not the case. In fact, hard bristles and vigorous brushing wear down your enamel over time. The ADA recommends brushing with a soft-bristled brush and replacing a ragged toothbrush every three to four months.
Use a Fluoridated Mouthwash and Toothpaste
Fluoride helps harden your teeth and protects against cavities and tooth decay. Be sure to select a mouthwash and toothpaste that contains fluoride to help preserve your enamel. You could also ask your dentist if you would benefit from supplemental fluoride treatments, such as in-office fluoride gel treatments or fluoride chewable tablets.
Wait At Least Thirty Minutes After Eating and Drinking to Brush Your Teeth
Research shows it takes approximately thirty minutes for saliva to reinstate a normal ph level and remineralize the teeth. Brushing too soon could jeopardize this process and brush away some of the delicate minerals from the enamel.
Stick to Milk or Water
When possible, choose milk or water over sodas, juices, and other acidic drinks. The calcium in milk and dairy products serves as a buffer to acidic substances and aids in remineralization while water provides a natural way to wash away acid and food debris from the teeth.
Use a Straw for Acidic Drinks
Drink acidic drinks with a straw to help avoid direct contact with the drink's acid, which could potentially cause demineralization of the enamel.
Avoid Snacking Right Before Bed
Saliva production slows while we're sleeping, therefore, eating right before bed means less saliva available for the protection and re-mineralization of the enamel.
Schedule Regular Dental Screenings
Seeing your dentist for routine check-ups and cleanings helps keep your teeth clean and healthy. It also allows the dentist to address any issues before they become major concerns. Dental treatments for worn enamel vary, depending on the severity of the erosion. Crowns, fillings, and veneers cover teeth that no longer have enamel protection due to severe erosion.
Following these tips, in addition to practicing good oral hygiene, will go a long way towards preserving your enamel and protecting your teeth. If you experience signs of enamel erosion, see your dentist immediately to see what can be done to preserve your teeth before it leads to tooth loss.
Dr. Marichia Attalla is a leading Nassau County Periodontist. Learn more by visiting her website at: http://www.nassaucountyperiodontist.com