You have probably heard time and time again how very important it is to establish and maintain good oral hygiene habits, and how these habits are essential to healthy, comfortable teeth. While you may not have heard it as often, you have probably also heard how important it is to protect your tooth enamel. In fact, many dental products on store shelves promise to help strengthen or protect your tooth enamel. You may wonder what this really means, and whether it’s actually true.
About Tooth Enamel
The hard, protective outer layer of your teeth is your tooth enamel. This enamel layer is made up of calcium and phosphate, which are naturally strong. However, tooth enamel is not indestructible, and while it is strong it can be destroyed by harmful oral bacteria.
Your mouth is full of bacteria, some good and some harmful. Harmful oral bacteria is what you seek to eliminate through good oral hygiene habits. These bacteria feed off leftover food particles (one of the many reasons why it is so important to brush your teeth at least twice every day and floss your teeth at least once every day). They can also stick together and create the sticky film on your teeth that is known as plaque. And of course, they can produce enamel-eroding acids.
When bacteria is not removed from the teeth in a timely manner, the acids they produce slowly eats away at tooth enamel. Without this protective covering, the more delicate inner area of your teeth fall victim to the attack of harmful oral bacteria. If these bacteria penetrate deeply enough it can lead to tooth decay–such as cavities–and other painful and undesirable problems.
The good news is that harmful oral bacteria does not need to go unchecked. Your saliva actually plays a very important role–it contains natural, bacteria-fighting properties, essentially neutralizing these bacteria. This is why it is so important to remain adequately hydrated and ensure that any conditions which cause mouth dryness are addressed and resolved as rapidly as possible. However, saliva cannot handle all harmful oral bacteria on its own.
At the end of the day, protecting the health and strength of your tooth enamel is of utmost importance, as this is the first line of defense. Brushing and flossing your teeth goes a long way to removing the bacteria that seeks to harm your tooth enamel, but it simply cannot always catch everything. Which brings us back to the question of whether this enamel can be hardened or rebuilt after it has been attacked and weakened.
Reinforcing Tooth Enamel
Unfortunately, tooth enamel cannot be replaced or rebuilt once it has been destroyed or removed. That said, it can be strengthened–through the use of fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash. In some cases, surface cavities that haven’t penetrated the full enamel layer can be effectively resolved through fluoride use.
Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that can help teeth build stronger enamel when they are first developing. It can also protect teeth from the demineralization caused by bacteria acids, and strengthen teeth that have been damaged by demineralization by accumulating in the area that has been damaged.
If enamel has been extensively damaged, your teeth will require restorative dental procedures in order to be protected against further problems. This may include fillings, veneers, inlays, onlays or crowns, depending upon the extent and location of the damage.
When it comes to protecting and strengthening your tooth enamel, you absolutely must brush your teeth at least twice every day and floss at least once every day to remove as much bacteria and leftover food particles as possible. By using a fluoride toothpaste, you can further protect your teeth by ensuring deeper, more thorough elimination of bacteria and food particles as well as better protection against demineralization.
For more information about how to protect your tooth enamel with fluoride toothpaste, mouthwashes and even dental treatments, contact Dr. Best today.