Answer: The hardest tissue in the human body. Please form your response in the form of a question.
If you’re down around the Cape this summer some muscleheads might think they know the answer to that Jeopardy question. And they’ll flex to show you. But they would be wrong.
What is tooth enamel? Would be correct, and would let you control the board.
Your tooth enamel is the hardest tissue on your body. And not many people would get that right on Jeopardy!
Tooth enamel covers the crown of the tooth, the part that is visible above the gum line. It is comprised for the most part of minerals, primarily hydroxyapatite. It is translucent, so you can see right through your enamel to the main portion of the tooth, the dentin, beneath it. The dentin is what makes your tooth color, not the enamel.
But stains on your teeth from food and drink accumulate on the enamel, not in the dentin. Regular visits to the team at EMA Dental for your twice-yearly prophylaxis (fancy word for professional cleaning!) clean and polish most of those stains away. Tooth whitening also removes these stains from the enamel.
Like a burly bodyguard, without the roids
Like a bodyguard, your enamel’s job is protection. Enamel protects your teeth during daily use. You don’t realize it, but things such as chewing, biting, crunching, and grinding create lots of force, and your enamel keeps that force from damaging the interior of the tooth. The enamel also insulates the teeth from potential painful temperatures and chemicals.
Although it is incredibly strong, your enamel can still be damaged. It can crack or chip, but unlike bone cells, enamel has no living cells so once it is damaged the body cannot repair it. People think you can restore your enamel — some dental products even claim this — but you cannot. Once enamel is gone, it’s gone for good. Kind of like your youth!
Leave the erosion to the sandblaster
When you consider the fact that your enamel can’t rebuild, it’s wise to avoid the foods and beverages that cause enamel erosion. Here’s a list of enamel eroders:
- Acid reflux disease
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Fruit drinks (fruits have various acids, some very erosive)
- Excessive soft drink consumption (high levels of phosphoric and citric acids)
- Too much sugar and starch in the diet
- Medications like aspirin and antihistamines
- Environmental factors (see below)
Environmental surface erosion
While you can watch what you eat or drink, stopping what is called “environmental erosion” isn’t as easy. Friction, stress, general wear and tear, and corrosion can all combine to grind off the enamel from your teeth.
Abfraction —This is basically a stress fracture of the tooth caused by flexing or bending of the tooth.
Abrasion — This is the wear from when you brush too hard, bite hard objects such as fingernails and pens, or chew tobacco.
Attrition — This tooth-to-tooth friction is called attrition. If you’re a night grinder, this is what you’re doing to your teeth.
Corrosion — This is the name for acidic contents hitting the enamel. Frequent corrosion takes off enamel.
Will I know when enamel has eroded?
Unlike a crack or chip to your tooth, enamel erosion doesn’t happen quickly. There will be clues, but you have to be in tune with them to either stop your behaviors or change your diet. Sensitivity to sweets and temperatures can cause twinges of pain in the early stages of erosion. As it progresses, your teeth become discolored as more of the dentin is exposed. As enamel erodes the edges of your teeth can become rough and irregular. Severe sensitivity will come in the late stages.
If you have any symptoms of enamel erosion, a call to EMA Dental at our Longmeadow or Northampton office is in order. We can fix it with things like dental bonding before it gets really bad.