Most people have heard of the term tooth enamel and have a basic understanding of what it means. Enamel is the hard surface inside of the shell of each tooth. It’s the part that’s visible when people look into their own mouths. One surprising fact about enamel is that it’s the body’s hardest surface, even harder than the bones. However, that doesn’t mean that enamel is indestructible. It can decay or dissolve when exposed to bacteria, acid, and other contaminants.
When a dentist at Cherry Creek Family Dentistry in Littleton, Colorado speaks to a patient about tooth decay, he or she is typically referring to the erosion of tooth enamel. It’s especially important to understand the function of enamel and how to care for it to prevent tooth decay and other common dental issues.
What is the Purpose of Tooth Enamel?
Enamel serves the important purpose of protecting the teeth from damage. Without enamel, people would damage their teeth every time they chewed food because of the need to grind it. Fortunately, enamel prevents this from happening due to its hard surface. Another important function of enamel is to protect the teeth from pain when a person drinks or eats something hotter or colder than room temperature. When enamel is healthy, it provides insulation to prevent feeling any discomfort.
The downside of enamel is that it can break or chip easily. This frequently happens when someone bites into something very hard or gets food stuck between two teeth. Since chipped or broken enamel can no longer protect the teeth adequately, it’s important to get the affected tooth repaired as soon as possible. A dental crown is the most common form of treatment, but one of the dentists at Cherry Creek Family Dentistry could also recommend something else.
Many patients don’t realize that they have chipped or broken tooth enamel until they eat or drink something hot or cold. Food or beverages with a high sugar content can have the same effect. Although often mistaken as a simple toothache, persist discomfort is an indication that the tooth requires prompt attention.
Common Symptoms of Enamel Erosion
Pain after eating or drinking isn’t the only indication that enamel has broken, chipped, or eroded away. Patients may notice that many of their teeth appear yellow or otherwise discolored even though they brush and floss daily. The reason for this is that enamel contributes to the appearance of white teeth. As it starts to erode due to normal aging, poor oral hygiene, or a disease, a yellow, gray, or brown color may show up instead. Erosion of tooth enamel displays another substance called dentin underneath it.
Other patients notice that some of their teeth appear especially shiny or round. It’s common for teeth that have lost enamel to have indentations. They could appear rougher or chipped around the edges as well.
How to Take Great Care of Your Tooth Enamel
It’s important for people of all ages to brush and floss at least twice daily. Parents should set a good example for their children by allowing them to see mom and dad caring for their own teeth. Keeping up with biannual appointments at Cherry Creek Family Dentistry is essential as well. Not only do we thoroughly clean the teeth, we treat decay and other oral health issues as soon as we spot them.
Please contact our office to schedule a preventive care exam and cleaning if we haven’t seen you in more than six months or you’re concerned about the possibility of chipped or broken tooth enamel.