What Is Tooth Enamel?
Before you say: “I know what tooth enamel is,” take a minute to read this post – you might find out one or two surprising things about tooth enamel. It’s useful information. If we understand our bodies, we’re better able to take care of them, and your tooth enamel is more important to your health and well-being than you might have realized!
Like an Eggshell Only Much Harder
Did you know that most of your tooth volume is made up of relatively soft tissue? Below a thin shell of tooth enamel, we find the softer dentin, and below that, right at the heart of each tooth, lies the delicate pulp cavity that contains the nerve and blood supply.
Since our teeth have to take quite a beating, they’re covered in a substance that’s far harder than ordinary bone – tooth enamel. It forms a thin shell covering all the exposed areas of the tooth. Below the gumline, another substance, cementum, takes over where the enamel leaves off.
What Does Tooth Enamel Consist Of?
Tooth enamel contains the most minerals of any substance in your body. That’s what makes it so tough. 96 percent of tooth enamel is purely minerals. Have you ever heard of hydroxyapatite? It’s a form of calcium phosphate, and it’s the most abundant mineral found in tooth enamel.
Over time, tooth enamel can lose minerals, and despite being so hard, years of regular use plus a few bad habits like tooth grinding and eating too many sweets can wear the thin shell of enamel away leaving the teeth vulnerable to decay and infection.
Demineralization and Remineralization
Here’s another thing you didn’t know about tooth enamel – there’s a constant process of demineralization (in which minerals are lost from the enamel) and remineralization (in which lost minerals are replaced).
This is what happens. When we eat carbs and sugars, we encourage the growth of bacteria which form acids. The acids eat away at tooth enamel causing teeth to become demineralized. On the other hand, our saliva contains phosphate and calcium. They neutralize acids, but that’s not all.
These minerals help to remineralize the tooth enamel, repairing damage. When fluoride is added to the equation, remineralization occurs much faster, helping our tooth enamel to keep up with the daily demands we place on it.
Tooth Enamel Isn’t the only Thing That Makes Teeth Look White
Most people think that tooth enamel is white – but it isn’t. In reality, although it has a white to off-white tinge, it’s semi-see-through and the colour of your teeth is partly determined by the colour of the dentin that lies beneath the enamel.
Although tooth enamel isn’t the only thing to determine the colour of your teeth, stained tooth enamel can spoil the way they look. If you smoke, drink a lot of coffee, or enjoy red wine frequently, your tooth enamel becomes stained and your teeth no longer look white.
Tooth Enamel is so Important That it Forms the Basis of a Career
It’s true! Most people think of the dentist as being some guy or gal with a drill, but we won’t touch that drill if we don’t have to. As family dentists, we can sum up our work as a job that’s based on protecting and maintaining tooth enamel.
When tooth enamel is breached, it’s our job to patch it up again, but we’d far rather see strong, healthy tooth enamel. That’s why we scale and polish your teeth when you come for a check-up and it’s why we talk to you about proper brushing and flossing. It’s also the reason why we recommend fluoride treatments and the use of fluoride toothpaste.
Is tooth enamel important? Absolutely! If, in some unimaginable scenario, everyone lost their tooth enamel, guess what? We’d all lose our teeth too!