The human body is remarkably resilient. When you get a cut or a burn, your skin heals itself. Broken bones are set and fuse back together, nearly as good as new. If only this process were so simple with every other part of our body.
Teeth are a little different from body parts that receive support from our internal system. Even though they’re inside of your mouth, they’re outside of your body. Since your teeth are exposed, the repair process (and the damage process) work a little differently.
Your body needs some extra help to mitigate damage to your teeth, and even more help to prevent that damage in the first place.
What is Enamel?
Your body knows it’s sending your adult teeth straight to the front line. It designed them to be strong. Before your baby teeth come out and your adult teeth grow back in their place, your body makes the most of the time your teeth spend inside of your gums.
While your teeth are waiting to emerge, your body produces a substance called enamel to fortify their exteriors. Enamel is the hardest substance that the body can produce, and it’s stronger than steel.
When you hear that something is stronger than steel, it sounds impervious. And it would be, if not for the unrelenting bombardment of environmental factors that can slowly collaborate to damage it over time.
Steel can rust, and your enamel is capable of its own similar form of erosion from exposure to the elements.
How is Enamel Damaged?
Your bones are safely wrapped up in the soft tissues of your body, constantly receiving a steady source of nourishment and minerals like calcium to keep them fortified. Your teeth are out in the open, and they’re not protected from the kinds of damage they may encounter over the course of fulfilling their duties.
Poor Dental Hygiene
Your mouth functions the same as an external part of your body. It comes into contact with germs, food, dirt, and debris on a regular basis. Inconsistently cleaning your mouth is similar to inconsistently washing your hands or your hair.
The biggest difference is that your mouth is wet and dark, making it the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Your fingers won’t necessarily start to rot if you go a week without properly washing your hands, but your teeth certainly will.
Your enamel is meant to protect your teeth from damage, but if your enamel becomes damaged, the defense is gone. Bacteria will go straight through to your teeth. At that point, there’s not much you can do at home to handle the problem. You’ll need to see a dentist.
The Things You Eat and Drink
Acidic foods and sugary foods both conspire against your enamel. Anything acidic that comes into contact with your teeth (like orange juice and spaghetti sauce) will do what acids do. It will very slightly damage your teeth as you chew and swallow.
This doesn’t mean you should never have oranges or spaghetti sauce. If you opt for varieties with no added sugar, they’re extremely healthy additions to your diet. It simply means that you’ll need to avoid unnecessary acids (like soda) and take care to brush away the remnants of the acid in your mouth.
Many acidic foods and drinks just like soda also contain sugar. Sugar itself is bad for your health in large amounts, and it’s also bad for your teeth. Bacteria love to eat sugar. The bacteria stuck to the outside of your teeth will munch on the sugar they’re being fed and excrete an acid byproduct, which also sticks to your teeth and slowly bores holes, i.e. cavities.
Everyone wants beautiful white teeth, but they sometimes come at a significant price. Tooth whitening treatments, both the kind provided by the dentist and the kind you purchase at the store, can contain hydrogen peroxide. Peroxide might seem like a harmless ingredient, but it’s actually a kind of bleach.
Peroxide works to remove stains from the interior of the tooth by penetrating the enamel, encapsulating the source of the stain, and removing it. It can’t do its job without damaging the only natural protection your teeth have.
Time Taking Its Toll
Even if you’ve taken excellent care of your teeth for your entire life and you’ve maintained an impeccable diet, your enamel still isn’t safe. Very small amounts of damage can accumulate over time.
What Happens To Your Teeth When Enamel is Damaged?
Your teeth are made of a substance called dentin, and dentin is much weaker than enamel. It’s very porous and very sensitive, and it relies on your enamel to protect it. If your enamel is damaged, everything you eat and drink will come into contact with the sensitive dentin material.
Dentin has a bunch of small holes in it. Under a microscope, it looks like a strawberry with all of the seeds plucked out. These holes lead to nerves, and your nerves will feel everything. Everything hot, cold, or acidic that enters your mouth can cause pain on contact.
Can Your Teeth Create More Enamel?
The amount of enamel you have is finite. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Your body can only produce and fortify your teeth with enamel while they’re still growing, and once they’ve come through your gums, that time is up.
This means that your teeth cannot actually repair themselves. You’re responsible for maintaining and repairing your teeth. There are some things you can do at home, but significantly damaged teeth require the attention of a dentist.
Are There Dental Treatments To Repair Enamel?
Dental bonding, crowns, and veneers can be used to repair teeth that are no longer protected by a significant amount of enamel. If the damage is severe, your dentist may recommend removing the impacted teeth entirely. It’s best to avoid allowing the damage to escalate to that point.
How Do I Take Care of My Enamel?
Everything you do to take care of your teeth will also help to protect your enamel. It’s crucial to be consistent with your oral hygiene routine. Even if it isn’t the funnest thing in the world, you also need to schedule a dental checkup at least twice a year.
Proper Dental Hygiene
Brushing twice a day is always necessary -- even if you feel as though you didn’t eat anything that damaged your teeth. Mouthwash and floss are necessary for maintaining your oral health. Mouthwash helps to remove the debris and floss removes food trapped between teeth that your toothbrush will inevitably miss.
If you’re guilty of forgetting to floss, try keeping your floss on your bedside table. Floss while you’re watching your favorite shows before bedtime. It’s a little less boring and tedious when you’re entertained by something else.
Using a Great Toothpaste
A toothpaste loaded with minerals like calcium can help to repair weakened spots in your enamel. Calcium, when used in conjunction with ingredients like xylitol, can stick to the damaged enamel on your teeth. Think of it like constantly keeping a leak patched.
Many people don’t realize that toothpaste was never designed to kill bacteria. There’s nothing in the overwhelming majority of conventional toothpastes that kills germs. The idea is that you’re gathering them up and spitting them out when you brush. If you’re worried about the damage that bacteria is inflicting on your teeth, switch to toothpaste with a safe and natural antibacterial ingredient like Coral Toothpaste’s patented Nano Silver.
Regular Visits to the Dentist
You may believe everything is fine, but your dentist will be able to recognize the early warning signs of damage and help you change course. Cavities don’t always hurt when they’re beginning to form, and the best time to treat them is the moment they appear. If left unchecked, extensive damage can lead to removal of an entire tooth.
Most dentists recommend checkups every six months. A professional cleaning and evaluation of your dental health bi-annually will help you manage your oral health. It’s just a couple of hours a year, and it can save you thousands of dollars and a lot of pain to keep a close eye on the state of your teeth.
While your teeth cannot repair themselves, you can help to repair and protect your teeth. Be mindful of the products you use, and don’t cut yourself any slack with your oral hygiene routine.
We all have days where we can’t want to fall into bed and pass out for the night, but you never know if the night you skip your brushing will be the night that your enamel starts to erode.