Fact or Fiction: Can Tooth Enamel Be Restored?
Provided by Dr. Nathan Brooks, DDS
We constantly hear all kinds of myths about dental care. From claims that brushing your teeth harder means achieving a deeper clean, to the notion that whiter teeth mean healthier teeth, there is no shortage of incorrect information about proper oral hygiene out there.
One important misconception perpetuated by many toothpastes and mouthwashes alike is the resilience of tooth enamel. There is no shortage of dental care products promising to repair your enamel once it’s been damaged, but are the promises realistic?
In order to understand whether or not enamel can be restored, it’s first important to know what enamel is and the role it plays in your oral health. Let’s take a look:
What is enamel?
Enamel is the outer layer of tissue that covers our teeth and protects their inner layers from the negative effects of plaque and harmful acids. As such, it plays a critical part in the battle against tooth decay.
Enamel acts as a shield protecting our teeth from the daily wear and tear caused by chewing, grinding and other standard use. In fact, enamel is actually the hardest tissue in the human body. It also serves to insulate teeth from pain caused by severe temperatures and harmful chemicals.
Although you typically can’t see it because it’s translucent, enamel can still be stained from substances such as coffee, tea, red wine and cigarettes.
Can enamel grow back?
While enamel is extremely tough, it can still chip and crack if it’s not treated with care. Unfortunately, enamel is not a living tissue and does not regenerate naturally. This means that, unlike your bones, enamel can’t grow back after it’s been damaged and/or removed.
As such, those dental products that claim to be able to restore enamel are not entirely accurate. The truth is, while you can’t regrow enamel, you can remineralize it using fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash. Fluoride works to capture the minerals that acid draws out of teeth and forces them back in. Additionally, these products can add calcium and phosphates back into the tooth, which hardens enamel.
The fact still remains that once your teeth have lost their enamel, your body is incapable of growing it back. This means it is vital to the health of your teeth to take every precaution to protect the enamel you do have.
Don’t skip your next dentist appointment
If you are concerned with preserving the integrity of your enamel, keep in mind that there is no better preventative measure than a trip to the dentist. Regular visits to the dentist for routine cleaning and polishing can remove surface stains and help you to avoid enamel erosion and, consequently, tooth decay.
Tips and tricks for preserving tooth enamel
Admittedly, worn down enamel is a natural symptom of age that none of us can avoid. However, while we can’t stop the ravages of time, that doesn’t mean you can’t take proactive steps to preserve enamel.
Naturally, the most important place to start with caring for enamel is with brushing and flossing the teeth and gums. Doing so twice a day will help ensure your teeth are free of decay-causing plaque and acid.
The next important tip for protecting your enamel is to follow a proper diet and stay clear of foods that can cause heavy damage. Common culprits of enamel erosion are carbonated sodas and sweets that are high in sugar. Those substances have a tendency to stick to teeth, which the bacteria in your mouth loves. When the bacteria eats the sugar, it creates lactic acid, which will erode your enamel.
Other offenders to be wary of include acidic fruits and fruit juices. Be careful about the amount of fruit juice you consume, especially lemon juice and orange juice which are highly acidic. If you do have to drink acidic and sugary beverages, do it through a straw. Straws push the fluid to the back of your mouth, helping it to avoid your teeth. Also, rinse your mouth with water after your drink to help defuse the acid.
It’s not just sugary or acidic foods that are hazardous to enamel either. Tough foods, like hard candy or ice cubes, can chip or crack your enamel if you bite them. So, if you have to finish the ice at the bottom of your water glass, it’s best to suck on it rather than bite it.
Lastly, chewing sugar-free gum can help provide some added protection for your teeth. Gum helps boost saliva production. This is important because saliva contains important crucial minerals that strengthen teeth.
Also, don’t be fooled by over-the-counter teeth whiteners. While you may think that a pearly-white smile means your teeth are in great shape, many teeth whiteners are actually highly acidic. This means they can cause your enamel to wear away quicker than normal.
Dr. Nathan Brooks, DDS, lives out his lifelong dream as the owner of Anderson Dental Care in Cincinnati, Ohio. He leads a welcoming, family-focused clinic that offers comprehensive general and cosmetic dental care. With a Master’s in Biology from Purdue University and a Doctorate of Dental Surgery from Indiana University, he continues to pursue dentistry education to better serve and care for patients. On weekends, you’ll find Dr. Brooks, his wife, and their children adventuring outdoors or playing together indoors, depending on the season!