Enamel, the white outer layer of your teeth, is the hardest substance in your body. And despite its strength, it can still become damaged. Enamel can be eroded by prolonged exposure to acidic foods and drinks, as well as abraded by vigorous toothbrushing or hard-bristled brushes.
When your teeth's surfaces wear away, your teeth can become discolored or sensitive. With the help of your dentist, however, tooth enamel repair is possible.
If the damage to your enamel is minor, your dentist may recommend treating it at home with a remineralizing toothpaste such as Colgate® Enamel Health™ Sensitivity Relief. These products work by helping to replenish the natural calcium that makes up your tooth enamel. Be sure to use it twice a day to strengthen your enamel and keep your teeth free of the germs that cause decay.
More acute or advanced issues may prompt your dentist to recommend repairing your enamel with dental bonding, which uses a tooth-colored resin that can be applied to your tooth to protect a weakened area.
The application of dental bonding is fairly simple. First, your dentist prepares your teeth by etching the surfaces of the teeth that need to be treated. A conditioning liquid is then painted onto the teeth (these steps are important because they help the bonding stick to your tooth). Once your teeth are prepared, your dentist will apply the bonding. This putty-like material can be molded into the appropriate shape to cover your enamel, allowing your dentist to finally harden it in place with a special curing light.
Your dentist may also suggest veneers if only the front surfaces of your enamel are damaged. Veneers are thin pieces of tooth-colored porcelain that are permanently cemented to the surfaces of your teeth that face outward.
As counterintuitive as it seems, your dentist prepares you for this material by removing a small amount of enamel from the surfaces of your teeth. He or she will then take an impression of your teeth and send the impression to a laboratory. Your veneers will be custom-made to fit in your mouth and, when they're ready, sent to your dentist who can then adhere them to the teeth that need restoring.
Another option for tooth enamel repair is the application of a crown. Crowns are caps that usually fit over damaged molars, and because they cover the teeth completely, your dentist may recommend them if they are severely misshapen or discolored due to enamel damage that built up over time.
To apply a crown, your dentist first needs to prepare the tooth by filing it down. Similar to veneers, he or she then takes an impression of your tooth with dental putty. The impression will be sent to a dental laboratory so that a crown can be made custom for you. Often you'll wear a temporary crown while you wait for your permanent crown.
Once the permanent crown is ready, you'll return to your dentist for him or her to remove your temporary crown and cement your permanent crown in place. Your tooth will look and feel as good as new, with no signs of your previous enamel damage.
Your dental professional is there to provide tooth enamel repair when you need it, but your best approach is to address the cause of your enamel loss. Whether you brush too hard or grind at night, see your dentist to discuss, and to see if remineralizing toothpaste, dental bonding, crowns or veneers are suitable treatments for you in the short term.