Tooth Enamel

Evidence Based
NewMouth is reader supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase something using one of our links.

What is Tooth Enamel?

Tooth enamel is one of the four primary tissues that make up the human tooth. Tooth enamel is a hard substance that is found in the outer shell of each tooth. Enamel is considered the hardest substance in the body. In fact, about 1 to 2 percent of enamel is made up of organic materials, in particular, enamelins, which are enamel-specific proteins. 

parts of a tooth

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the resilient surface is 96 percent mineral, the highest percentage of any tissue present in the human body. Tooth enamel is even stronger than our bones. But that doesn’t mean it’s invincible. Tooth enamel can decay or breakdown when bacteria breaks down the sugars in foods creating an acid, or hole. 

What Does Tooth Enamel Do?

Enamel plays an extremely crucial role when it comes to protecting the teeth from decay and damage. Enamel creates a strong barrier safeguarding the teeth’s inner layers from the impact of plaque and acids.

The nerves in your teeth are sensitive to temperature, meaning foods that are hot or cold can cause tooth pain. The enamel works to insulate the rest of the tooth to eliminate or limit the amount of discomfort you feel when eating or drinking something hot or cold.

BOOK A TOP DENTIST NEAR YOU ON ZOCDOC

1. Find nearby in-network dentists

2. Browse reviews by real patients

3. Book your dentist appointment online

FIND A DENTIST

Signs of Damaged Tooth Enamel (Enamel Loss)

Although tooth enamel is a hard, protective surface, it can still crack or chip pretty easily. When enamel chips or breaks, it won’t be able to adequately protect your teeth. You may become aware of your enamel problem if you start to feel pain while eating, especially if you are eating something particularly sugary, hot, or cold. Here are some common signs of damaged tooth enamel:

  • Sensitivity towards food/drinks that are sugary, hot and/or cold
  • Fractures
  • Chips, breaks, fractures. As the tooth enamel weakens, teeth become more fragile and can easily be broken, chipped, or fractured
  • Tooth decay
  • Discolored teeth. Teeth with a yellow or brown tint appear when the dentin, a hard, dense tissue that makes up most of a tooth beneath the enamel, is exposed. The natural color of dentin is yellowish. 

What Causes Tooth Enamel Erosion?

Tooth erosion is caused by acid from the food and drinks we consume, wearing away the teeth’s enamel. Enamel erosion is identified by a smoother, yellower appearance because of the loss of enamel minerals. It also often shows cupping or indentations in the chewing surface where enamel is worn away.

Enamel damage and erosion are caused by the following:

  • Drinking too many soft drinks (due to their high level of phosphoric and citric acids)
  • Fruit juices (due to their high acidity) 
  • A diet that is high in sugar and starches 
  • A diet that is high in foods with acidity, including fruit
  • Gastrointestinal issues. Our stomachs naturally produce acids to help the body digest food. On occasion, these acids travel up the throat and into our mouths. Typically, our salvia will rebalance the acid levels. But, for people who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux, also known as acid reflux or GERD, gastric acids reach the mouth continuously all day long, not just after a large meal. Another concern for people who suffer from acid reflux is that the medication to treat acid reflux often causes dry mouth. Saliva production is necessary to neutralize the acids caused by acid reflux and wash away food particles and reduce bacteria in the mouth that attack the enamel. 
  • Genetics
  • Teeth grinding
  • At-home teeth whitening/bleaching products 
  • Eating disorders like bulimia

Can You Restore Tooth Enamel?

Once your tooth enamel is destroyed, your body will not make more of it to replace it. But, the good news is that dental procedures can help restore your teeth to function properly.

The first technique a dentist can help restore tooth enamel with is called tooth bonding. Bonding is a procedure where a tooth-colored material called resin is put on the damaged tooth. The resin covers up any discolorations caused by the damaged enamel and will protect your tooth from further damage.

Another way to restore tooth enamel is by a veneer or crown. A dentist may add this to your damaged tooth to prevent future decay.

How to Strengthen Tooth Enamel Naturally

There are a few ways to strengthen your tooth enamel naturally, including:

  • The best way to protect your teeth from enamel erosion is to practice good dental hygiene. Brushing and flossing your teeth two times a day with a toothpaste that contains fluoride is the best way to protect your teeth and keep your oral hygiene in tip-top shape.
  • Fluoride treatments. In addition to fluoride toothpaste, if you are concerned about the enamel on your teeth eroding, talk to your dentist about fluoride treatments. These treatments can help restore some of the mineral density to the enamel through a process called remineralization. 
  • Drink acidic drinks from a straw and avoid swishing the drink around in your mouth. Drink lots of water following a sugary or acidic meal.
  • Eat acidic foods with cheese or milk to balance out the acidity.
  • If you suffer from dry mouth, try chewing on sugar-free gum and visit your dentist if the problem persists. This will increase the amount of saliva you produce to help buffer the acids in your mouth that create tooth decay. 

FIND AND COMPARE TOP LOCAL DENTISTS

Choose your insurance to find nearby in-network doctors who accept your plan. Read verified reviews & book appointments online.

Resources

5 Reasons Your Smile Is Stronger Than You Think. (n.d.)., https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/fun-teeth-facts-part-2

Understanding tooth enamel. (n.d.)., from https://www.humana.com/prevention-and-care/healthy-living-and-prevention/dental-health/tooth-enamel

Tooth Enamel: Nature’s Crowning Achievement. (2020, October 05).,https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2010/08/6000/tooth-enamel-research-combines-science-and-engineering

Publishing, H. (2014, March). When teeth get damaged., https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/when-teeth-get-damaged

Vieira, A., Gibson, C., Deeley, K., Xue, H., & Li, Y. (n.d.). Weaker Dental Enamel Explains Dental Decay., https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0124236

Erosion: Stomach Upset and Your Teeth. (n.d.)., https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/e/tooth-erosion-and-acid-reflux

Updated on: October 20, 2020
Author
NewMouth
About
Medically Reviewed
Erica Anand
About
menu