Think before you drink: the truth about tooth enamel

shutterstock_174404741Diet soda may be helping you cut calories, but it’s actually harming your teeth. Drinking any kind of soft drink can cause enamel erosion or tooth decay. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the inherent acids and sugars in soft drinks have both acidogenic and cariogenic potential, resulting in tooth decay and enamel erosion if a person drinks it often.

What is enamel, and what happens when it is eroded?

Tooth enamel is one of the four major tissues that make up the tooth in the human mouth. It is the visible part of your tooth above the gum, which is why it’s more susceptible to erosion, because it is constantly exposed. Tooth enamel is found to be the hardest substance in the body, but it can dissolve or decay when exposed to acid and a buildup or bacteria. Tooth enamel is important because it protects your teeth from damage. It also protects the nerve in your teeth. That’s why people with sensitive teeth have proved to have less enamel, which allows more liquids to come in closer contact with nerves, causing pain.

Other ways tooth enamel can be damaged is from fruit drinks, dry mouth, a diet high in sugar and starches, acid reflux disease, gastrointestinal problems, medications such as aspirin and antihistamines, stress or that it simply runs in your family.

How is enamel loss treated?

This can be a case-by-case basis. If there is a cavity, we will fill it with white colored filling so it isn’t cosmetically noticeable. We may recommend tooth bonding to protect the tooth and increase cosmetic appearance. If enamel loss is significant, we may cover the tooth with a crown to protect the tooth from further decay.

What symptoms might I experience if my enamel has eroded?

If your enamel has eroded or begun to erode, you may experience some pain when eating cold or hot foods. In advanced cases, you may experience pain or throbbing when eating in general. As enamel erodes, your teeth may appear yellow or discolored. Enamel contributes to the teeth’s white appearance, so if it is weakened to expose dentin, teeth can change color. Teeth may appear more round in shape, or unusually shiny. In severe cases, the edges of teeth can become rough, irregular, and jagged, causing cracks and chips.

If you continue to drink soft drinks on a regular basis, remember to:

  • Limit consumption of soda just specifically to meal time. This way, the sugar doesn’t sit on your teeth.
  • Try not to drink soda consistently throughout the day; especially citrus flavored soda, as these type of soft drinks have higher levels of acid than regular soft drinks.
  • Rinse your mouth out afterwards, and brush after 30 minutes.
  • Chew sugar-free gum. This will help clean out the mouth to avoid sugar sitting on the teeth and causing erosion.
  • Drink through a straw to avoid liquid contact on your teeth.
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash. Small amounts of fluoride can strengthen teeth and help prevent enamel erosion and tooth decay.
  • Schedule a cleaning every 6 months.

Our caring team provides Southwest Florida patients with the highest quality dental care, from cosmetic and general dentistry services to implants. If you have concerns related to your dental health, schedule an appointment with us today at 239-936-0597.

Crowns: A Royal Pain?

So you’ve had some dental work and learned that a filling won’t do this time. You need to come back for a crown – a tooth-shaped cap that restores the tooth’s shape, size, appearance and strength. You learn that not only does the procedure cost more than a filling; it could require several visits to complete. It may not be the news you wanted, but crowns are an important procedure used to preserve a tooth or teeth that have been badly damaged, by accident or by tooth decay.

This is possibly the most common scenario for a crown. However, crowns can be applied for cosmetic reasons too. Sometimes, we can predict when a crown will be necessary based on the scope of visible decay to be repaired. Other times, the problem is worse than it looks, and the need for a crown only becomes apparent after work begins. What looks like a simple fix turns into a root canal, a more invasive procedure sometimes required to fix the tooth, and a larger portion of the tooth is removed. A crown is needed to protect the newly exposed areas of the tooth, and to give it strength to prevent future damage.

Step 1: The Temporary Crown

After removing all decay, if necessary, leaving as much healthy tooth as possible, a temporary filling or crown is applied to protect the tooth from exposure to bacteria while you wait for permanent crown to be applied. If you plan to return for the crown soon, which is ideal, a temporary filling will be applied. If for any reason it may be a while before you can return for a crown, let us know and a temporary crown will be applied. If the temporary filling comes out, which can occur due to normal use, return to us for a replacement as soon as possible. Temporary crowns are usually more secure, but should also be replaced immediately if necessary.

Step 2: Preparing for a Crown

The sooner you can have the temporary filling or crown replaced the better as these are not intended to be long-term solutions. We recommend you return within two weeks to be fitted for a crown. We will prepare the tooth and take impressions for a customized crown to be made. Permanent crowns can be made from stainless steel, all metal (such as gold or another alloy), porcelain-fused-to-metal, all resin, or all ceramic. The crown will fit your tooth exactly and protect it from damage and decay if taken care of properly.

Step 3: Applying the Crown

Once the customized crown is created, the final step is to remove the temporary crown, check the fit and color, and finally cement the crown into place. It will fully encase the visible portion of the tooth.

If this sounds like a “royal pain,” remember, the alternative is tooth extraction, a less attractive option that can lead to additional dental health problems in the future. Be sure to talk to us about your options, including all the pros and cons of crowns and extractions, so we can help you make the best decision.

Crowns can also be used to protect a weak tooth, restore a broken or severely worn tooth, to hold a dental bridge in place, to cover misshapen or severely discolored teeth, to cover a dental implant or to make a cosmetic modification.

For a consultation, please call our office at 239-936-0597 or make your appointment online at http://www.myfortmyersdentist.com/.