What makes up a tooth? There are three main areas of a tooth. You have the root, which is the lowest level, and where the tooth connects to the jawbone. You have the neck, which is where the exposed enamel and tooth cementum over the root meet. The tooth extends above the gum line and the top of the tooth is the crown. The tooth is mostly made of minerals, but there’s also a little water and proteins.
The tooth itself is made of several layers. Start at the most-inner layer and you have the blood vessels and nerves within the pulp. The pulp is protected by the yellowish dentin. Covering the dentin is the clear, protective layer of enamel. That enamel helps protect against tooth decay.
Over time, your enamel wears away. Signs of enamel loss include increased sensitivity, teeth that appear yellowish, and teeth that have signs of wear. Acidic foods are a leading cause of enamel erosion, as are poor oral hygiene habits. Some of the dental products you’re using could also be damaging your teeth and exposing the dentin.
The toothpaste, mouthwash, or other dental product you spot on Facebook, TikTok, or other social media platforms may appear to be a miracle product, but some of them are damaging. Here are a few tips from Nashville dentist Dr. Jody Jones.
Toothpaste Can Be Abrasive
When brushing your teeth, the toothpaste you use can matter. The Relative Dentin Abrasivity (RDA) index measures the abrasiveness of different products. Anything over 250 will not get approved by the ADA as it’s too abrasive, so it’s rare to find a toothpaste over 250, but it’s not impossible. With online retailers and large marketplaces, some of the organic, all-natural, etc. products you find when it comes to dental powders, pastes, or gels are not ADA-approved. Make sure you see a seal before purchasing a product. If you don’t see one, ask!
If you have weakening enamel, you need to be very careful about what you use. A toothpaste designed to restore enamel is best, but it’s not the only thing to watch. Whitening formulas of toothpaste are designed to remove stains, which can make them a little more abrasive, but some are designed to whiten and build enamel, so they’re a great choice.
You should pay close attention to the fluoride level. Higher fluoride levels are beneficial for people with enamel erosion. So are products with chemicals that protect against tartar build-up. If you have been told you have enamel damage, ask your dentist for recommended products. Sometimes, prescription products are ideal.
Read Your Mouthwash’s Ingredients Label
If you insist on using mouthwash, make sure you’ve chosen one that isn’t harming your enamel. While mouthwash is great at getting between teeth and gums to get small particles that brushing might have missed, mouthwash can damage your enamel. Saliva is key to flushing away bad bacteria in the mouth, and alcohol is drying and can slow saliva production.
Plus, some mouthwashes with alcohol have higher acidity or lower Ph levels, which can help with enamel erosion. Avoid mouthwashes with alcohol. You also want to look at what’s in the mouthwash. You’ve brushed your teeth with fluoride toothpaste. You can’t want to use a mouthwash that’s going to rinse away the fluoride that’s remaining on your teeth. Instead, look for products that contain fluoride.
Avoid Home Whitening Products
You want whiter teeth, but home whitening products may not help. If you have weak enamel and exposed dentin, dentin is by nature yellowish. Hydrogen peroxide in whitening strips won’t resolve your issues. Plus, the products may irritate the gums if used incorrectly, too often, or you have a sensitivity.
If your gums are inflamed, you may be less willing to brush and floss your teeth. Bacteria and plaque build up in the meantime and damage your enamel. It’s always best to talk to your dentist about teeth whitening at a dentist that specializes in Nashville cosmetic dentistry.
Don’t Floss Too Aggressively
When you floss too aggressively after brushing your teeth, it can harm the gums. It can also cause some abrasion to the enamel. When flossing, aim for an 18-inch strand of floss. Gently push it between the teeth and move it up and down along the sides of the tooth. Avoid pulling it roughly back and forth on the gums.
You should ask your dentist for advice. Some studies find that flossing first and brushing the teeth after is more effective. As an alternative, consider investing in a water flosser and use that before brushing the teeth, and then brush the teeth and use dental floss to finish.
Purchase an Enamel-Friendly Toothbrush
You also do not want to use a stiff or hard-bristled toothbrush. You might think that firm bristles remove more plaque, but it also scrapes and abrades your enamel. Always use a soft bristle brush. Don’t push down too hard. If you have a tendency to be aggressive, consider an electric toothbrush that stops pulsating or moving or gives a warning when you’re pushing down too hard.
Studies have found that electric toothbrushes remove more plaque than a standard toothbrush. It’s worth the investment. You have two options. Some use sonic waves to help break up plaque while it brushes your teeth. An oscillating brush is the other option, and in some studies, it’s more effective as it moves in small circles. Sonicare and Oral-B are the two best-known electric toothbrushes, but there are others. Ask your Nashville dentist for a professional opinion as to which is best in your situation.
When you brush your teeth, don’t do it right after you’ve eaten. After a meal, your enamel is softer. If you brush at that point, you can damage your enamel. Give it an hour for the enamel to start hardening again, which happens as your saliva does its job and rinses away food particles. Try to eat your meal while drinking plenty of water to help your saliva.
Don’t Try DIY Dental Scaling
You can buy almost anything online. When it comes to damaging your enamel, one of the worst products to purchase is a DIY dental scaler or plaque scraper. Your dental hygienist is trained in months of classroom lessons and hands-on practice on how to identify plaque and tartar and how to properly remove it. It’s unlikely that you have this training.
When you buy online dental products like this, you risk damaging your enamel. You can also push tartar into the gum line and cause an infection that can lead to a painful abscess. It’s not worth the risk. It’s better to go to your dentist for cleanings twice a year.
See Your Dentist Regularly
It’s essential to visit a dentist for two yearly cleanings and exams. Your Nashville dentist can help you determine which products are best for your teeth. It’s never a one-size-fits-all answer. Plus, you may find there are solutions like dental sealants or dental veneers that can help protect your teeth from damage when the enamel is eroding or there are chips and cracks.
Nashville’s Jody Jones DDS helps patients get the smile of their dreams through stress-free cleanings and exams and dental procedures like whitening and veneers. Request an appointment online or by phone.