The enamel is the part of the tooth which covers the crown visible outside of the gums. The main portion of the tooth is dentin, which the part that is responsible for your tooth color, whether white, off white, grey, or yellowish. Your enamel helps protect your teeth from daily wear and tear such as chewing, biting, crunching and grinding. Although the enamel is hard, it can chip and crack and once a tooth chips or breaks, the damage is done forever. Because enamel has no living cells, the body cannot repair chipped or cracked enamel. When the enamel is worn away, the dentine underneath is exposed.
A variety of drinks contribute to dental erosion due to their low pH level. Acidic foods and drinks will lower the pH level of your mouth resulting in demineralization of your teeth. Examples include fruit juices, such as apple and orange juices, sports drinks, wine and lemon water. Saliva acts as a buffer, regulating the pH when acidic drinks are ingested but fruit juices in particular, may prolong the drop in pH levels in the mouth.
Depending on the stage of the enamel erosion the signs can vary.
In the early stages of erosion, certain foods and temperatures may cause a twinge of pain. Then, as the enamel erodes and dentine is exposed, the teeth may appear yellow, and cracks or chips will affect the tooth or teeth.
In later stages of enamel erosion, teeth become extremely sensitive to temperatures variation and sweets.
Frequency, rather than total intake of acidic drinks, is seen as the biggest issue in causing dental erosion; infants using bottles containing fruit juice or people drinking lemon water or fruit smoothies on a daily basis are therefore at greater risk of acid erosion.
Once the enamel of a tooth is lost, it cannot be replaced naturally. With a strict remineralisation regime, tooth enamel loss may be limited and no further treatment will be required. Reducing the frequency of acidic food and beverage intake decreases the acid exposure time and allows the eroded tooth surface to remineralise. Sensitive toothpaste may be used to manage any discomfort.
Sometimes fillings may be placed to protect the tooth and increase cosmetic appearance. If the enamel loss is significant, the dentist may recommend covering the tooth with a crown. The crown may protect the tooth from further decay.
Remember, prevention is always better than cure.