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Enamel: Your Teeth’s Natural Defense

Your teeth are protected by a hard shell. This coating is called enamel. To maintain a healthy smile, you need to protect your enamel from decay, wear, and acid erosion.

Facts About Foods and Teeth

Many foods contain some type of sugar, especially processed food that may have sugar added for flavoring. Certain germs in our mouths can create tooth-destroying acid when they combine with the sugar we eat. This acid can dissolve the enamel and lead to tooth decay.

Some foods are acidic themselves. Juices, citrus fruits, sodas, and sports drinks contain a lot of acid.

Repeated acid exposure can damage teeth and erode tooth enamel. Swish your mouth with water thoroughly after eating or drinking acidic foods or beverages. Wait an hour or so before brushing to allow acid affected enamel to re-develop its hard coat (called remineralization).

Other Factors That Harm Enamel

Some health conditions are also associated with erosion, or the dissolving of the tooth surface. These include:

  • Bulimia, an eating disorder that can involve repeated vomiting. The stomach acid in the vomit can destroy tooth enamel over time.

  • Gastroesophageal reflux, or heartburn, during sleep.

How to Safeguard Your Tooth Enamel

Try these tips to protect your enamel:

  • Choose a toothpaste that contains fluoride. This helps strengthen tooth enamel. Gently brush at least twice a day, paying special attention to your gum line.

  • Floss at least once daily to clean between teeth and under the gum line.

  • Try to limit between-meal snacks.

  • Limit soft drinks, sports drinks, and other acidic drinks or foods. Drink plenty of water instead to keep the mouth moist.

  • Rinse your mouth with baking soda after throwing up or burping stomach acid into the mouth.

“Diet and Dental Health." Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. Accessed 2013.

“Eating Disorders.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. Accessed 2013.

“Erosion—Diagnosis and Risk Factors.” A. Lussi and T. Jaeggi. Clinical Oral Investigations. March 2008, vol. 12, no. 1 (suppl.), pp. 5-13. Accessed 2013.

“Tooth Enamel Erosion.” WebMD. Accessed 2013.

"Fluoride." Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. Accessed 2013.

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