For being so small, your teeth are considered pretty important by your body. The substance that surrounds them, called tooth enamel, is the strongest substance your body produces. It must remain strong to withstand the nearly 200 pounds of pressure that the human bite can exert thousands of times a day. As impressive as it is, though, tooth enamel is not invulnerable. It can thin, weaken, or crack, and when it is compromised, your teeth are virtually defenseless against bacterial infection. Lake Orion dentist Dr. Greenfield explores your teeth’s first and foremost defense, tooth enamel.
How Enamel Protects Your Tooth
Whether you take excellent care of your teeth, or you never pick up a toothbrush, bacteria will grow in your mouth. Around 10-15 billion bacteria inhabit a healthy mouth, and a few of them are particularly dangerous to your oral health. When these bacteria accumulate, they form a sticky film called plaque that holds them together and adheres to your teeth (even under your gumline). Enamel protects your teeth from the damage harmful bacteria can cause, like tooth decay.
How Enamel is Attacked
Unfortunately, harmful bacteria are determined. When you eat food or drink a beverage, the bacteria in plaque process the ingredients. Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria most commonly associated with tooth decay, synthesizes sugars and carbs into lactic acid. When acid attacks, it weakens enamel until it is no longer strong enough to repel bacteria from the inner tooth.
Aside from acid erosion, enamel can also crack due to undue pressure, such as that from traumatic impact or constant tooth grinding and clenching.
How Enamel is Saved
Oddly, tooth enamel contains no living cells that can repair it when it is damaged. Enamel is not without its own secrets, however. As the most mineralized substance in your body, enamel can refortify itself when weakened by absorbing the minerals it is made of, mainly calcium and phosphate. During acid erosion, acid siphons these minerals from your tooth (demineralization), rendering this strengthening process (remineralization) difficult. Saliva has natural properties that aid tooth enamel and neutralize acid, and drinking milk provides extra additional minerals to increase enamel strength.
The best protection against damaged tooth enamel is to maintain a healthy oral hygiene routine. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, and floss at least once, to control bacterial population and limit acid production. Visiting your dentist at least once every six months will help prevent tooth decay from advancing, possibly costing you a tooth. To schedule an appointment with your Lake Orion family dentist, call our Lake Orion, Michigan, office at (248) 693-6213. We welcome patients from Lake Orion, Oxford, Rochester Hills, Clarkston, and the surrounding communities.