Table of Content
What You Can Do About Enamel Loss on Your Front Teeth
by Dylan Hao |
Did you know that the enamel that protects your inner layers of teeth is harder than bone?
In fact, it’s the hardest substance in any vertebrate animal, full of minerals and proteins.
But as hard as enamel is, it is possible for it to wear away, eroding due to things like everyday wear and tear and demineralization.
Enamel protects the sensitive inner layers of dentin and pulp that cover the nerves of each tooth. When these layers are exposed, air and other matter hit the nerves, which often results in serious pain.
Because enamel is formed in layers, we don’t usually notice the process of erosion immediately. It’s only when this hard outer shell thins out that we begin to feel the discomfort that comes with it.
The problem is that enamel doesn’t grow back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and it can be most noticeable on the front teeth since this is where you bite and what’s visible when you smile.
So what can you do to keep this from happening or prevent it from getting worse? This article will give you the answers you need to understand why we lose enamel and what you can do about it when it happens to your front teeth.
How Your Teeth Are Formed
If you’ve never delved into how your teeth are formed, don’t worry. Most of us haven’t. We just know that hard white enamel pushes through the gums when we’re growing, and we can finally chew our food instead of gumming it.
Of course, we don’t remember this process, but if you’ve ever had your wisdom teeth come in, you know there’s some discomfort involved.
It’s a part of life we don’t question. Yet, a basic knowledge of how your teeth are formed can help you understand the importance of taking care of them. Let’s take a shallow dip into the pool of the mechanics of our oral health.
The Layers of Your Teeth
Without getting too scientific, we’ll explain the layers of your teeth and how they’re formed.
There are five stages of tooth development (a term called odontogenesis). Most of the stages happen below the surface, so you don’t really notice they’re in progress. That’s why new parents don’t always know that their child’s fussiness is from teething until that little white chip breaks through the gums.
The Five Stages of Tooth Development, Summarized
The first stage is the bud stage, which happens before we’re born, around the eighth week of pregnancy. Dental epithelium cells break off from their home base, where they wait until it’s time for them to become the tooth germ. This “germ” holds all the soft tissue required for a tooth to form.
Next, the cap stage occurs. During this time, those living cells shape the outside layer of the tooth, producing a cap that sits on the bud. The cap will eventually produce enamel, while the bud makes the interior layers of dentin and pulp, and more cells surround these two areas, creating the nerves and blood vessels. (Notice a similarity yet to our nerves and teeth?)
The third, or bell, stage happens when the enamel grows into its final shape, which looks like a bell. During this stage, the enamel cells become one of four different layers. These layers will eventually become your adult enamel.
Stage four is when the crown and root form. Your enamel and dentin become solidified, and the root, made from dentin and root canals that house the dental pulp, is officially finished. These will continue to change and grow from baby to adult teeth, but the stages are the same.
The final stage is the eruption stage. Your tooth is ready to come into the world, the root has started to develop its own identity, and the jawbone and connective tissues move the tooth into place.
Provided each of these stages happens naturally and without any problems, your new teeth will form with healthy enamel and roots, ready to bite and chew. Isn’t the human body amazing?
Why Enamel Erosion Happens
With that quick throwback to all the things we might or might not have learned in our Human Growth & Development class in high school in mind, we can see why our enamel is so important. It protects those sensitive cells that connect to our nerves.
So, when tooth enamel loss happens, it, too, occurs in stages. Slowly, layer by layer, those four sections of enamel erode. You won’t notice it at first, but eventually, the symptoms of this problem become obvious.
Common signs that enamel erosion is in process look (and feel) like:
- Sensitivity to taste, textures, and temperature
- Visible lines, chips, or cracks in the surface of the teeth
- Shading variations and discoloration (your teeth aren’t all the same color)
- Cupping (indentations on the surface)
The good news is that if you catch these issues early, you still have three more layers of enamel protecting your sensitive roots. But you need to protect it by figuring out what you’re doing that’s causing the enamel to erode in the first place.
Why Enamel Erosion Happens
When we think of erosion, most of us think of geographic formations, like rocks and shores. So, let’s use that as a metaphor for our teeth.
The layers of crust and rock in the earth are strong enough to handle the planet’s magnetic field. Yet, over time, wind, rain, waves, and other elements beat against these hard substances and wear them away.
The same thing happens to your teeth when you eat and drink a lot of products that damage the enamel.
Like a rain shower doesn’t harm a rock at first, the continuous pounding of waves and storms damages it. You might not think your soda habit is harmful, but when it happens continuously, the phosphoric and citrus acids in soda erode the enamel.
The same process happens with fruit and fruity drinks with a high pH (acid) level, sugary substances, chewy foods and candies, and tobacco products. And if you have a habit of chewing on hard objects, you’re not just eroding the enamel, you’re tempting your tooth to crack entirely.
Even if you have a healthy diet, avoiding acidic drinks, fruit juices, and other no-nos, you can still have tooth enamel erosion. Many people with severe cases of bruxism (teeth grinding) experience this symptom.
Less common but just as dangerous, are eating disorders, particularly bulimia and acid reflux (often called GERD). These conditions bring your stomach acid back up through the esophagus and into your mouth, where it eats away at the enamel.
Abrasion of the teeth from using a toothbrush that’s too hard or brushing too much is yet another cause of tooth sensitivity as the enamel wears away. It can also cause gingivitis and periodontitis at the delicate gum line.
The Effects of Front Teeth Enamel Loss
Studies show that enamel erosion is a worldwide problem on the rise. Unhealthy diets, lack of exercise, and poor dental healthcare are some of the causes.
No matter what the reason is, the consequences of enamel loss can be painful and permanent. When it happens to your front teeth, the effects go beyond physical and impact your mental health and self-confidence.
Function, Aesthetics, and Your Front Teeth
If you have a “normal” smile, you might take it for granted. You don’t mind showing it off when you’re happy or when you meet someone for the first time. It’s part of an overall great impression!
But the reality is that there are plenty of people unhappy with their smile, and when the imperfection is in an anterior (front) tooth, it’s not easily hidden. So, these people eventually stop smiling or feel the need to cover their grins.
Over time, this can reduce their satisfaction and quality of life. This isn’t a blanket statement; the effects of smile consciousness were measured.
People with enamel loss or missing front teeth had lower overall satisfaction with their daily life and appearance, higher pain levels, and reduced ability to eat what they wanted. Things like citrus foods and steak are hard to eat when your teeth hurt. And cold foods? That’s a hard pass when you know the sensation will spike a pain that feels like it goes straight to your brain.
The feeling of dissatisfaction with their appearance was more common in females than males. But the inability to eat on demand was across the board.
We quote, “Tooth loss has definitive impact on patients’ satisfaction with their dentition regardless of personal factors such as age, gender, and level of education.” The more damaged teeth, the higher this impact becomes.
Proactive Ways to Prevent Enamel Loss on Your Front Teeth
You want to eat what you want when you want. You want to smile when you get the urge and not have to duck your head or cover your mouth.
So be proactive about protecting your enamel!
This is a little harder to do on the front teeth because they get the most use and exposure to impact and wear and tear.
But with these simple daily habits, you can reduce the potential for enamel damage.
- Know the risk factors, including diet, dehydration (saliva is necessary to prevent dry mouth and wash away bacteria), and an overall unhealthy lifestyle.
- Wear a mouth guard if you play sports and a night guard if you have bruxism. (A custom night guard from JS Dental Lab provides a comfortable night’s rest and keeps your teeth from touching and grinding.)
- Eat a healthy diet full of calcium and other essential vitamins your body needs, especially as you get older.
- Use a straw to avoid the liquid hitting your front teeth.
Most importantly, develop and stick to proper oral hygiene habits. Get regular checkups and dental cleanings, and brush and floss your teeth twice a day.
Related: How Do I Stop Grinding My Teeth?
What to Do About Existing Front Teeth Enamel Loss
When it’s too late to be preventative, what can you do to keep the enamel loss from worsening?
Tips to Strengthen Enamel
Since it’s your front teeth you’re worried about, you’re likely noticing the sensitivity all day long. You want it to go away, but you can’t rebuild enamel. However, you can help decrease the sensitivity and reduce future erosion by strengthening your remaining layers.
Just as the name implies, remineralization involves infusing your diet with vitamins and minerals that can boost your oral health.
Load up on calcium, phosphorous, and Vitamins A, C, and D. These essential nutrients are crucial to a balanced immune system and optimal overall health. As a bonus, your skin and hair will look healthier, too!
A Toothpaste Change
Toothpaste can do so much more than clean your teeth and remove bacteria and plaque. The right product can strengthen your enamel and help repair the damage at its source.
Consider switching your toothpaste to a professionally recommended product designed for enamel restoration.
Talk to your dentist or look for “enamel repair” on the ADA-approved toothpaste. These are typically in the “sensitive teeth” section, so, as an added side effect, you won’t feel as much discomfort as you used to when you brush. Mouthwash is helpful to wash the extra bacteria and plaque away after brushing.
Tooth bonding is a popular technique in cosmetic dentistry used to cover imperfections so the tooth blends in with your smile. The dentist uses a composite resin material, matched to the surrounding teeth.
The resin, the same material used in fillings, is similar to a putty at first. It gets spread smoothly over the chip, crack, or discoloration. When it dries, it is bonded to the tooth, and you can’t tell the difference between the bonded tooth and your natural teeth.
Another potential fix for severe front tooth damage is a dental crown. The visible part of your tooth is called a crown, and these dental procedures simply replace the damaged natural tooth with a new, artificial “crown.”
Dental crowns look identical to the natural teeth around them but cover up the damaged tooth. This helps improve your smile, which, as we mentioned, is vital to your self-confidence.
More importantly, though, it prevents further damage from happening to your tooth, possibly resulting in expensive, intensive procedures.
Further reading: Your Daily Dental Care Checklist
You’ve learned a lot from this quick anatomy lesson, like the importance of preventing enamel loss. Whether you’re in the trenches and already dealing with the problem or you’re trying to prevent it from happening, you’re now armed with the knowledge to make it happen.
Start with a custom night guard from JS Dental Lab to protect your pearly whites, then work on creating healthier habits. Avoid sugary and acidic foods, see your dentist to watch for signs of tooth decay, and use fluoride toothpaste. Your teeth will thank you with a happy, beautiful smile that lasts a lifetime!