Tooth Enamel Erosion and Restoration
What are the environmental causes of tooth surface erosion? continued...
Saliva plays a key role in keeping teeth healthy and strong. Not only does saliva increase the health of the body tissues, it protects enamel by coating the teeth in protective calcium and other minerals. Saliva also dilutes erosive agents such as acid, removes waste material from the mouth, and boosts protective substances that help fight mouth bacteria and disease.
In a healthy mouth, calcium-rich saliva helps strengthen teeth, even if you drink an acidic soda or juice. Yet when you go overboard and ingest a lot of acidic foods and beverages, this strengthening process on the teeth no longer occurs.
Does plaque cause enamel erosion?
Plaque is a sticky film made up of saliva, food particles, bacteria, and other substances. Plaque forms between your teeth and gets inside tiny holes or pits in the molars. It also gets around your cavity fillings and next to the gum line where the teeth and gums meet.
Sometimes the bacteria in plaque changes food starches into acids. When this happens, the acids in plaque start to eat away at the healthy minerals in the tooth enamel. This causes the enamel to wear down and become pitted. Over time, the pits in the enamel increase and grow in size.
What are the signs of enamel erosion?
The signs of enamel erosion can vary, depending on the stage. Some signs may include:
- Sensitivity. Certain foods (sweets) and temperatures of foods (hot or cold) may cause a twinge of pain in the early stage of enamel erosion.
- Discoloration. As the enamel erodes and more dentin is exposed, the teeth may appear yellow.
- Cracks and chips. The edges of teeth become more rough, irregular, and jagged as enamel erodes.
- Severe, painful sensitivity. In later stages of enamel erosion, teeth become extremely sensitive to temperatures and sweets. You may feel a painful jolt that takes your breath away.
- Cupping. Indentations appear on the surface of the teeth.
When enamel erodes, the tooth is more susceptible to cavities or tooth decay. When the tooth decay enters the hard enamel, it has entry to the main body of the tooth.
Small cavities may cause no problems at first. But as cavities grow and penetrate the tooth, they can affect the tiny nerve fibers, resulting in an extremely painful abscess or infection.