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Updated on December 16, 2022
5 min read

Tooth Enamel

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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 one to two 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 break down when bacteria break 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.

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 protect your teeth adequately. 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 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 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. 

Can You Have Too Much Fluoride?

Yes, it is possible to have too much fluoride. While fluoride helps prevent tooth decay, too much of it can cause issues like enamel fluorosis. This condition can develop in children and causes defects in the enamel of the teeth.

Kids with enamel fluorosis may have ingested too much fluoride through supplements. Or, they may have taken fluoride supplements in addition to consuming fluoridated water.

As well as this, swallowing fluoride toothpaste heightens the chances of enamel fluorosis. Most children with enamel fluorosis have mild cases that do not pose a concern. However, in severe cases, the teeth may be discolored, pitted, and challenging to clean.

Last updated on December 16, 2022
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on December 16, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. 5 Reasons Your Smile Is Stronger Than You Think, Mouth Healthy, (n.d.)
  2. Understanding tooth enamel, Humana (n.d.)
  3. Tooth Enamel: Nature’s Crowning Achievement. UCSF, (2020, October 05)
  4. Publishing, H. (2014, March). When teeth get damaged.
  5. Vieira, A., Gibson, C., Deeley, K., Xue, H., & Li, Y. (n.d.). Weaker Dental Enamel Explains Dental Decay.
  6. Erosion: Stomach Upset and Your Teeth, Mouth Healthy, (n.d.).
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