When you examine your smile in a mirror, hopefully you like what you see. On the surface, you may have a full set of straight, white, natural teeth. What you might not see though is if your teeth are suffering from dental erosion. If that's the case, it's time to act.
Enamel and Erosion
First off, what is erosion and what is enamel's role in it? Enamel covers the outer layer of every tooth. It's the hardest substance in the entire human body. Enamel's main job is to prevent teeth from decaying. So when enamel wears away, teeth become vulnerable to damage caused by plaque and bacteria. Unfortunately, enamel doesn't regenerate once it erodes; hence, that's why it's so important to guard against dental erosion.
Teeth are subject to two types of erosion: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic erosion results from acids due to conditions such as anorexia or acid reflux. Extrinsic erosion occurs when acids that lower the body's pH level comes from food and drink choices, such as sugary snacks, carbonated drinks, sodas, fruit juices and wine. Those types of foods and drinks make saliva acidic.
Signs of Erosion
Recognizing erosion signs is an important first step in solving the problem. Here are three indications that all is not right with your teeth.
Tooth discoloration: Enamel is white. Dentin, the sensitive tissue located below the enamel, is yellow. So if your teeth develop more of a yellow tinge, it may be due to enamel loss.
Tooth appearance: Your teeth may appear thinner or smaller than normal. Also, the lower portion of your front teeth can look transparent as opposed to opaque. Either of those conditions is an indication of dental erosion.
Tooth sensitivity: Drink or eat something hot, cold, sour or sweet and you might perceive a shooting pain through your teeth. Again, as the enamel wears away, the sensitive dentin is vulnerable.
Once your dentist diagnoses you with enamel erosion, there are methods you can take to counteract it. First off, take inventory of your diet. Acidic and sugary foods are two main culprits that cause erosion. If the enamel is too far gone, dental procedures such as bonding, crowns or veneers can repair the problem.
Long-Term Health Effects
While it's import to confront the immediate issues caused by erosion, you need to take stock of potential long-term health issues. Poor oral hygiene can lead to gingivitis, which is the first stage of gum disease, notes the American Dental Association. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research adds that gum disease can lead to problems beyond the mouth. In some people with gum disease, it may be more difficult to control blood sugar and they may be more prone to heart disease. Studies also show that there may be a correlation of gum disease and its effect on pregnant women and low birth weights. Keep in mind, though, that more research is needed on the subject.
If you think you're suffering from dental erosion, schedule a consultation with your dentist. But, you should be visiting him or her anyway as regular checkups are a crucial element of any oral care plan. Brush your teeth at least twice a day too. And if dental erosion is a concern, brush with Colgate® Enamel Health™ Multi-Protection Toothpaste. Don't forget to floss every day! And try rinsing with mouthwash. Both flossing and mouthwash remove food particles that get stuck in those spots a brush has difficulty reaching. Practicing proper oral care means your teeth will be as healthy as your smile looks beautiful.