I ran across an article recently that talked about how researchers are studying beaver teeth to gain a better understanding of how to protect human tooth enamel. This got me thinking about how our enamel shows signs of wear.
Enamel is the hard outer layer of the tooth. When the enamel wears away, the yellow dentin starts to show through. The interesting thing about tooth enamel is that it does not contain any living cells, so it cannot regenerate itself.
I get to be a detective when I look into a patients’ mouths and inspect the wear of their teeth. It can say a whole lot about their habits.
Enamel wears away when it is affected by decay. I see this in the places that brushing and flossing seem to miss. Bacteria collect and mix with sugars to form an acid. If left untreated, it will destroy the enamel in that spot, turning it into a cavity.
Our enamel also wears away with teeth grinding. I see this when the tops of the teeth are yellowed down to the denton.
Enamel is also worn away is through jaw clenching. I see this at the roots and the gum line.
Eating disorders also erode tooth enamel, because of all the extra acid in the mouth from vomiting. In this instance, I see the enamel vanishing from the backs of the teeth.
Using a hard-bristled toothbrush can leave scratches in your enamel over time. As an example, if someone were to drink a soda and then immediately brush too vigorously with a hard-bristled toothbrush, it would create an acid bath for the teeth. Allow the saliva to do what it’s supposed to do and neutralize the acid. Then, use a soft-bristled brush.
You see, a dentist can learn a lot about you from the wear and tear of your teeth!
Protect and preserve your enamel, and your teeth will be protected for years to come. All this talk of how tooth enamel is worn away might sound a little depressing. Stay tuned for next week’s blog post. We will be talking about the ways you can remineralize your teeth.
~Dr. Chai (a.k.a. Dr. Tooth!)
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