Healthy enamel is important to protecting our teeth while enabling us to eat without discomfort. The following information discusses what happens during the process of enamel erosion and the primary reasons why this occurs.

What is Enamel Erosion?

Enamel is a thin layer that covers the part of the tooth that is visible above the gums. This extremely strong covering is the hardest tissue in the body. Enamel helps protect the tooth from daily biting, chewing, and grinding that takes place. Unlike bones that can be healed by the human body, enamel does not consist of living tissue. Once a tooth breaks, chips, or the enamel is gone, the damage is permanent. In general, erosion occurs when acids wear away the enamel covering on a tooth.

What Causes Enamel Erosion?

Enamel erosion can have several specific causes. Excessive consumption of soft drinks and fruit juices can cause this type of erosion. The phosphoric and citric acids in these drinks can be very corrosive. A diet high in sugar can also contribute to enamel loss. Acid reflux, dry mouth, and the use of certain medications can cause erosion. A few environmental causes include natural friction between teeth and abrasion that occurs when an individual chews on a pen or opens a bottle using the teeth. Certain health problems, such as bulimia, can also cause enamel to erode.

What Are the Signs of Enamel Erosion?

There are varying stages of erosion that may produce more visible or intense symptoms. Sensitivity to either very hot or very cold foods could be an early sign of erosion. Discoloration can appear as the enamel erodes and more of the dentin beneath is exposed. Cracks, chips, and a jagged appearance along the teeth can also occur. When erosion becomes more severe there may be an intense, even painful sensitively to hot and cold temperatures. Sometimes dental bonding is used to repair teeth damaged by enamel erosion.