Enamel is the thin, translucent, hard outer layer of the teeth that protects them from the daily stress of chewing, biting and grinding; temperatures of hot and cold foods and drinks; and erosive acids. Despite being the toughest tissue in your body, a variety of factors can cause enamel erosion, or loss of enamel. Loss of enamel increases teeth sensitivity, exposes stains on teeth, increases vulnerability to cavities and decay, and creates rough and irregular teeth edges and dents on teeth surfaces.
Enamel loss is primarily caused by erosive acids that wear away enamel over time. Excessive consumption of soft drinks, which contain high amounts of phosphoric and citric acids, and other acidic drinks and foods, such as fruit drinks and sour foods or candies, is the leading cause of acid-related enamel loss. Frequent consumption of medicines and supplements containing high acid content, including aspirin, antihistamines and vitamin C supplements, also cause enamel loss. Stomach acids brought up to the mouth from acid reflux disease, or heartburn, and other gastrointestinal problems can also erode enamel. This includes stomach acids brought up from frequent vomiting due to bulimia, alcoholism or binge drinking.
Environmental factors in the mouth, or the physical wear and tear from daily friction and stress on the teeth, are another contributing factor of enamel loss. Environmental causes of enamel loss include friction from clenching or grinding your teeth, especially during sleep, and wear and tear from brushing your teeth too hard, improper flossing, biting hard objects or chewing tobacco. Stress fractures, or chips and cracks in the enamel, cause permanent enamel damage because enamel does not contain any living cells to help the body repair these fractures.
Low Saliva Production
Acid- and environmental-related enamel loss are even more likely if you have a dry mouth or low saliva production. Saliva strengthens both your teeth and their enamel by coating them with calcium and other strengthening minerals. Saliva also protects against enamel erosion by diluting and washing away erosive acids and other wastes leftover from foods and drinks and by producing substances that fight against mouth bacteria and disease that can cause enamel loss. While a healthy amount of saliva production can protect enamel from the erosive effects of acidic foods and drinks, excessive consumption of acidic foods and drinks decreases saliva production and saliva’s ability to strengthen teeth and enamel.
An excessive build-up of plaque can also contribute to enamel loss. Plaque is a thin, sticky coating made of saliva, food particles and bacteria that forms between teeth, inside holes or pits in your molars, and at the gum line. Some of the bacteria found in plaque can change food starches into acids that wear down enamel over time by eating away at its healthy minerals. As long as plaque continues to build up in your teeth, the acids in plaque will continuously erode enamel.