Dental erosion occurs when the hard enamel surface on your teeth starts to wear out. Estimates put the amount of erosion in adults as high as 45%. A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey puts the estimation at four out of five adults who have dental erosion.
Tooth enamel is a prime component in preventing cavities. It’s the outer coating of a tooth that creates the white, glossy appearance. Below that is the dentine, which is softer and yellowish in color and where cavities can quickly progress. Dentine protects the pulp that contains the tooth’s blood supply and nerves. If a cavity reaches the pulp, you’re likely going to feel pain.
Protection of your tooth enamel is the key to preventing cavities.
But, there are a lot of things that erode your enamel. Our tips for protecting tooth enamel all focus on the reasons your enamel erodes.
Avoid Acidic Foods and Beverages
Acidic foods and beverages soften your enamel. Eat them in moderation and avoid some of the biggest offenders like soda, sports drinks, and sugary tea and coffee drinks (cold or hot). Lemons, pickles, and oranges are also acidic. What are some healthier, less acidic foods to snack on?
- Apple slices
- Mozzarella sticks
- Raw broccoli
After having a portion of an acidic food or beverage, rinse your mouth with water. Chew a gum containing xylitol between meals to help boost saliva production.
While thinking about the foods you want to eat and the ones to avoid, add excessively crunchy foods to the list. Biscotti is hard enough to damage a person’s teeth. Popcorn kernels and corn nuts are also foods you should eat with caution.
Brush Regularly and With Care
Brush twice a day and do so with care. Don’t press down too hard. Some electric toothbrushes are equipped with sensors that tell you if you’re brushing too hard. These are helpful in avoiding the high pressure that can damage your enamel.
When you brush, wait an hour after you’ve eaten to avoid brushing while the enamel is still softened following your meal. Floss your teeth with a water flosser before you brush to get rid of larger food particles and follow with regular floss after brushing for two minutes.
Brushing for longer periods doesn’t help much. It can damage your teeth if you brush for too many minutes, so set a timer to two minutes and aim for 30 seconds per quadrant.
Choose a Toothpaste Designed to Strengthen Enamel
Look for a high-fluoride toothpaste that’s designed to strengthen enamel. Pronamel is one brand, but there are others like Crest Densify. You can also ask your dentist about prescription toothpaste like PreviDent 5000 Enamel Protect.
Don’t Use Firm Toothbrushes
A firm toothbrush may seem like the best choice to scrape off plaque, but it also damages the enamel. Always use a soft toothbrush.
Get Enough Calcium and Vitamin D in Your Diet
Do you drink milk with your meals? Drinking a glass of milk while you eat can be beneficial, especially if you’re having acidic foods like tomatoes.
You also want to boost your calcium intake to the recommended. In general, people should get 1,000 mg of calcium and 600 IU of vitamin D each day. Women over the age of 50 should increase their calcium intake to 1,200 mg per day. Chances are you’re not getting enough calcium or vitamin D as around two out of five adults are deficient. Here are examples of the calcium and vitamin D counts in common foods.
- One cup of low-fat milk – 300 mg calcium/115 UI of vitamin D
- One cup of cooked broccoli – 60 mg calcium/No vitamin D
- One egg yolk – 22 mg calcium/50 IU of vitamin D
- A 3-ounce serving of canned sardines – 325 mg calcium/164 UI of vitamin D
- A 4-ounce serving of cottage cheese – 105 mg calcium/3 IU of vitamin D
- A 6-ounce serving of low-fat Greek yogurt – 200 mg calcium/No vitamin D
Rinse Your Mouth After a Meal
After eating a meal, rinse your mouth out with water. You shouldn’t brush your teeth immediately after as acidic foods can soften enamel and brushing does more harm than good. Once you’re done eating, wait an hour before you brush your teeth.
Take Care of Health Issues Like GERD, Alcoholism, or Eating Disorders
Some health issues impact your dental enamel. If you are a chronic alcoholic, have been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or have an eating disorder, your teeth may be exposed to more stomach acid than usual. This weakens your tooth enamel, and you must focus on your health issue first.
Talk to your doctor about mental health treatments for eating disorders or addiction. If you have GERD, medications to stop the stomach acid from backing up may be recommended.
If you do throw up or have stomach acid get into your mouth, rinse your mouth with milk or a glass of water with a teaspoon of baking soda added to it to neutralize the acid.
Use a Straw
Invest in reusable cups with built-in straws. A straw directs fluid to the back of the mouth and away from teeth. That helps keep acidic beverages from bathing the teeth.
By getting reusable straws, you avoid filling the trash with plastic. They often come with brushes to make them easy to clean. If you hate the idea of reusable straws, aim for straws that are compostable and made from paper or potato starch.
Visit Your Dentist Regularly
Make sure you visit your dentist at least twice a year for a cleaning and exam. If your dental insurance allows for three or four cleanings per year, ask your dentist if it’s necessary. They’re often recommended when gum disease is present or there’s a high risk.
While you’re with your dentist, ask if you qualify for sealants. It’s a thin plastic sealant that is painted onto the prepared surface of the tooth forming a protective layer over your resin. The sealant layer usually protects for ten years, and at that point has to be replaced.
Your dentist may recommend veneers if you have chips or cracks. It’s worth discussing them as they can protect thin or eroded enamel.
Have you had a negative experience in the past that keeps you from seeing a dentist regularly? You’re not alone. Almost two out of five people have dental anxiety. One out of ten has an extreme fear of the dentist. Don’t let that fear stop you from seeking the best oral care.
Jody Jones DDS is an expert in treating patients with dental phobia. Ask us about sedation dentistry techniques where you are given a light sedative to help relax you without putting you fully under. You’re able to get a cleaning and exam or oral health treatment like veneers or fillings without fear. Let us know how we can help and we’ll work with you to achieve your goals and get stronger teeth.