How To Strengthen Your Tooth Enamel In Houston, TX
See these simple but effective ways for how to strengthen teeth and keep your smile overall healthier.
Photography by Pete
Most people think that their bones are the hardest parts of the body. However, the strongest thing in the human body is your teeth’s enamel. Enamel is the outermost layer of the tooth, meant to protect the softer and more vulnerable dentin and pulp layers underneath. It consists of 96% minerals, such as phosphate and calcium, that make this tooth layer durable and resistant to dental problems like impacts, dental trauma, decay, and erosion. In a sense, you can think of enamel as the shield or armor keeping your inner tooth safe and healthy.
However, as hardy as it is, tooth enamel isn’t invincible. While it may be the most mineralized substance in your body, it can still be worn down and damaged over time as it loses its minerals. What causes tooth enamel to weaken? From improper brushing to an unlucky draw in the genetic lottery, teeth enamel can become demineralized for several reasons:
Poor oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing your teeth irregularly or using the wrong techniques can cause dental plaque and bacteria to build up. The acids in plaque and bacteria slowly strip away enamel’s calcium and other minerals. Once the tooth is weak enough, they erode the enamel and begin attacking the inner tooth, causing a cavity.
Genetics. You don’t just inherit your good looks, humor, and wealth from your parents. Weakened enamel can also run in the family. Diseases like enamel hypoplasia and demineralization can be passed on genetically, leading to more frequent tooth decay and other dental issues.
Unhealthy food. Sugary junk foods and fizzy drinks are the worst things for your teeth that you can eat. Sugar is excellent at attracting oral bacteria and helping plaque accumulate on your teeth faster. And carbonated drinks and sodas are great at gradually breaking down your enamel, even if you have good brushing and flossing habits.
Too much fluoride. Fluoride strengthens the teeth, so it’s recommended even from a young age to keep smiles healthier. However, moderation is key. Excessive fluoride when teeth are still developing can lead to fluorosis. What is dental fluorosis? It makes the enamel highly porous, weakening it. You can often spot it by the faint white streaks it leaves on enamel.
Can you rebuild tooth enamel? Unfortunately, no. Once it’s been lost, you can’t naturally regenerate your tooth’s enamel. However, you can still restore some of the lost minerals to help strengthen the tooth. Weakened enamel can be restored or remineralized to some extent, such as with minor wear and tear and early tooth decay before cavities form. However, with more extensive damage, you can’t regenerate or rebuild the lost and destroyed tissues. You will most likely need a restorative treatment such as a dental filling or crown to repair your tooth to its old shape.
Although you cannot rebuild enamel, you can still keep these problems at bay and strengthen your teeth. There are certain lifestyles and habits that you can adapt to reinforce your tooth enamel and keep your smile healthier:
Watch Your Diet
Your diet plays a large part in your enamel’s health. Healthy eating can keep your teeth from weakening and help bolster the enamel’s defenses against tooth decay and other dental problems.
Cut Down Sugars and Sodas
As discussed, sugars, junk foods, and carbonated drinks are among the most common causes of weak teeth. You need to limit sugary food and fizzy drinks because their acids weaken enamel and problems like tooth decay. For this same reason, you should also avoid having citrus fruit and fruit juices like lemonade, oranges, and grapefruits due to their high acidity.
Demineralization strips enamel of its calcium. Eating calcium-rich food such as dairy products, leafy greens, and beans can help reverse the damage done by sugary foods and strengthen the enamel.
Getting your daily amount of vitamin D can help, too. Vitamin D helps your bones and tooth enamel absorb calcium. (It also helps your teeth’s inner dentin layer protect and repair itself against bacteria and decay. You can easily get vitamin D through sun exposure, foods like salmon and other fatty fish, and supplements.
Practice Great Dental Hygiene Habits
Keeping your teeth clean of plaque and bacteria is key to preventing your smile from weakening and falling prey to tooth decay and other dental problems. This requires maintaining excellent oral hygiene. Most people think of dental hygiene as brushing their teeth twice each day and flossing daily. However, there’s more to a healthy, clean smile than this:
Use the Right Techniques.
How you brush and floss your teeth is just as crucial as how often. Brush in gentle, circular motions rather than straight up-and-down, left-to-right strokes. This allows the bristles to better reach plaque at and below the gum line. You should also brush for about 2 minutes to give your smile a thorough scrub. When flossing, use C-motions to catch any food or debris stuck under the gums.
Never Brush Too Much
Wait, go back and read that again. While you should brush your teeth regularly, you shouldn’t brush more often than two or three times a day. Over-brushing can scratch and damage the tooth’s surface. If you have coffee or other acidic drinks, you should also wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth. As the acid weakens the tooth, immediately brushing can further harm your enamel.
Switch To An Electric Toothbrush
If you’re still using a manual toothbrush, we recommend replacing it with an electric one instead. Electric toothbrushes can remove much more plaque—some studies say over 100% more. With rotating and vibrating bristles, they automatically help you use the correct brushing motions and techniques. Some electric toothbrushes also come with features like a built-in timer or pressure sensor to ensure you take better care of your teeth.
Regularly Get Dental Cleanings
Even if you do all of the above, plaque and bacteria can still gradually build up on your teeth over time. Seeing a dental hygienist at least once every six months for a dental cleaning helps you keep your teeth squeaky clean and helps prevent demineralization and tooth decay. Patients who already have a history of frequent dental problems may need to come in more frequently to ensure their dental health stays in check.
Use Fluoride Products
As dentists, fluoride is one of our best friends. It has been known as nature’s cavity fighter and enamel strengthener for ages, remineralizing teeth and keeping smiles in better shape. It also makes your teeth more resistant to bacteria and tooth decay. Luckily, it’s incredibly easy and convenient to get access to it. You can add more fluoride to your smile with:
- Community water
- Fluoridated bottled water
- Fluoride toothpaste
- Fluoride mouthwash
- Fluoride treatments and sealants at the dentist
However, while fluoride is incredible, we’ve already discussed that too much isn’t great for your enamel. As long as you take any products as instructed, your smile will be perfectly safe and healthy with a good layer of fluoride for your teeth to absorb. Children should especially use fluoride treatment and toothpastes. Their teeth are not immune to decay and cavities. Are baby teeth more prone to cavities? Unfortunately, baby teeth are naturally weaker than adult ones, making it easier and faster for cavities to develop. Be sure to follow your children’s dentist’s instructions on how to use them.
- For children under age 2, put only a smear of remineralizing toothpaste on their toothbrushes. Afterward, tilt their head over a sink or washcloth and let the toothpaste dribble out of their mouth.
- Kids between 3 and 6 years old can use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Make sure to keep a close eye on their brushing to ensure they don’t swallow any.
- Children should not use mouthwashes, fluoride or not, until they are at least age 6. This ensures they do not accidentally swallow any.
Signs of Weak Tooth Enamel
To prevent enamel from extensive damage, you need to look out for sure signs and symptoms that indicate a weakened tooth:
- Tooth discoloration: Healthy enamel is a healthy, solid white. Enamel that has been demineralized by tooth decay can develop white spots. These spots will gradually darken as the decay worsens.
- Tooth sensitivity: Thinner tooth enamel can also increase sensitivity to hot, cold, and sweet foods. This sensitivity is often a symptom of a cavity, so it’s best to see a dentist for an exam if you consistently feel twinges and pain from your teeth.
- Surface roughness: Normally, our teeth feel smooth on our tongues. However, early stages of enamel loss can cause them to feel rough, especially around the tooth’s edges.
If you experience any of these problems, it’s time to start strengthening your enamel or even see one of our dentists.
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