Enamel erosion – what causes enamel erosion and what are the treatment options?

A tooth is made up of a number of layers with dental enamel forming the highly-visible outer or surface layer. Dental enamel is made up of carbonated calcium hydroxyapatite and is remarkably durable but is not completely resistant to wear. This is one of the main reasons why protecting tooth enamel is so important. Enamel plays a critical role – it is the first line of defence against cavities and works to prevent harmful bacteria from entering deeper layers of the tooth structure.

In order to offer a firm protective barrier, enamel has to maintain the correct pH levels. Any imbalance in pH levels exposes enamel to the destructive forces of acids and erosion. Normally, it is the saliva’s job to get rid of dangerous acids, maintain balance and remineralise teeth; but when the pH balance is disturbed, this function is rendered ineffective. The eventual consequence is enamel erosion, which puts patients at greater risk of developing serious dental issues; tooth loss, tooth sensitivity and yellowing teeth. For patients who have concerns over enamel erosion it is suggested that they visit a dental clinic in W1 where a dentist can assess their situation and draw up a treatment plan.

The importance of raising awareness of enamel erosion was highlighted at the 2019 British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show hosted in Birmingham. According to researchers, 80 per cent of adults carry markers for enamel erosion.

Common causes of enamel erosion

There are a number of reasons why dental enamel wears away. Some of the more common causes include:

  • Lifestyle and dietary habits

Most often it is the dietary and lifestyle habits of patients that put their teeth enamel at greater risk of erosion. Consuming foods and beverages that are highly acidic or loaded with sugar (including sugar-free drinks) causes serious damage to enamel.

  • Teeth grinding

Stress and the position of one’s teeth are two common reasons for teeth grinding during sleep. Speaking to a dentist can help figure out the real cause of this.

  • Brushing teeth at the wrong time

This one may be a surprise on the list, but there are times when it is not advised that patients brush their teeth. It is best not to brush one’s teeth straight after eating or drinking something acidic. Instead patients should wait for at least 30 to 60 minutes before using a toothbrush. The acid present in the food weakens the enamel. It would be better for a patient to rinse out their mouths with water and saliva works faster to eliminate acids and remineralise enamel.  

How to protect against enamel erosion

Much research and development in the dental industry has gone into finding ways to reverse enamel erosion (the dental condition was once believed to be irreversible). A scientific study conducted at the Queen Mary University of London has given scientists new hope in their attempts at regenerating dental tissues such as enamel, through promoting mineralisation and developing acid-resistant platforms.

For now, patients looking to protect against enamel erosion are advised to consult a dental practitioner for an appropriate solution. A dental practitioner will first need to determine the cause of the enamel weakening. A patient may then be asked to make a few changes, the most common of which are:

  • Implement dietary changes

For erosion caused by acidic foods, the only solution is to cut back on consuming these types of foods. Increasing consumption of calcium-rich foods like cheese and drinking milk not only keeps teeth strong but helps counter the effects of acids. Inadequate saliva production can be stimulated by drinking water and chewing sugar-free gum.

  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush

Soft-bristled toothbrushes are kinder and gentler on teeth enamel. Aggressive brushing works only to damage teeth and gums.

  • Practise good dental habits

Patients should not forget that good oral habits are the key to a healthy mouth. The only way patients can keep on top of dental health is through regular dental check-ups. A dentist can quickly and easily spot signs of trouble and implement necessary preventive treatment.

Is it time for a dental check-up? Schedule one now without delay. Dentists are well-experienced and trained in a wide range of treatments.

Andy