Tooth Enamel–Your Teeth’s First Line of Defense

tooth enamel gridYou may have heard quite a bit about tooth enamel. You may even know that tooth enamel is the strongest substance that your body produces. If you’re like some people, however, you may also wonder why you get cavities if the tissue that protects your teeth is second only to diamond in terms of strength. Today, we take a close look at your tooth enamel, and how it can be attacked and weakened by the things you expose it to.

The Composition of Your Teeth’s Outer Layer

Teeth are often confused as being bones. This is not a ridiculous assumption; teeth and bone are similar in appearance, and they are both formed from the same calcium-phosphate crystal building material. It is, however, a wrong assumption. Tooth enamel is much stronger than bone because of the proteins that shape enamel’s mineral crystals. Amelogenin, a protein found in enamel, squeezes the mineral crystals until they are thousands of times longer and stronger than the mineral crystals found in bone. The dimensions of a crystal strand in enamel are 100,000 x 50 x 25 nanometers, compared to your bones’ strands, which measure 35 x 25 x 4 nanometers.

The Destruction of Your Tooth Enamel

Even with enamel’s incredible strength, it can still be damaged and leave your tooth defenseless. Enamel consists mainly of the minerals calcium and phosphate, as well as a few others. When sugars and carbohydrates come into contact with the plaque in your mouth, the bacteria in the plaque digest these substances and excrete lactic acid onto the surface of your teeth. When acid attacks your enamel, it creates microscopic holes through which bacteria can enter and attack the interior of your tooth, leading to tooth decay and possible tooth loss. Because enamel is made of minerals, when it is weakened, it can strengthen itself by acquiring additional minerals to replace those lost. During an acid attack, however, the minerals in your teeth are depleted, leaving your enamel weak and unable to remineralize.

The Way to Strengthen Enamel

Unfortunately, the human body does not produce the mineral calcium. We must acquire it in the foods and beverages we consume. Milk is an excellent source of calcium, and also helps to alleviate dry mouth as well as strengthen your enamel. Chicken, cheeses, and certain nuts are also good calcium choices, as well as green leafy vegetables and turkey, beef, and chicken. You can also keep your enamel strong by keeping it clean of bacteria and plaque. Be sure to brush and floss your teeth carefully at least twice every day, and attend a dental checkup and cleaning as often as your dentist recommends.

ABOUT YOUR SHREWSBURY DENTISTS:

At Modern Dentistry, Todd A. Pizzi, DDS, and Luciana Messina, DDS, are dedicated to providing high-quality cosmetic, restorative, and preventive dentistry services to patients and families in Shrewsbury, Worcester, North and South Grafton, Westborough, Southborough, Northborough, Boylston, Hopkinton, Millbury, and all surrounding communities. To schedule your next appointment, contact our office by calling (508) 842-6356 today.