Teeth are tough.

In fact, the protective layer, tooth enamel, is the hardest substance in the human body.1

Let’s learn more about enamel.

What is tooth enamel?

Tooth enamel is the thin outer covering of a tooth. It covers the crown of the tooth, which is the part you can see outside of the gums.

Although it is the outer layer, enamel is see-through. Dentin, the hard tissue beneath the enamel, is what gives teeth their color.2

What does tooth enamel do?

Enamel’s main job is to protect your teeth from damage. When you chew, you risk damage to your teeth because you have to grind your food. In most cases, your enamel is hard enough to prevent teeth from being damaged while you’re eating. In addition, the nerves in your teeth are sensitive to temperature, so hot or cold foods would cause pain. The enamel insulates the tooth so that you don’t feel discomfort when eating or drinking something hot or cold.3

Over time, the enamel wears away. This is called tooth enamel erosion. As enamel erodes, the tooth can become painful and more susceptible to cavities or tooth decay.4

What causes tooth enamel erosion?

Tooth enamel erosion can be caused by many things:5

  • Drinking too many soft drinks and fruit drinks
  • Eating too much sugar and starches
  • Dry mouth
  • Medications
  • Genetics
  • Acid reflux disease (GERD) and gastrointestinal problems
  • Environmental factors (friction, wear and tear, stress and corrosion)

What are the signs of enamel erosion?

One or more of these symptoms can be signs of tooth enamel erosion:6

  • Sensitivity to temperatures and sweets
  • Teeth appearing more yellow as dentin is exposed
  • Cracks and chips in the edges of teeth
  • Dents or indentations on the surface of the teeth

How can you prevent tooth enamel erosion?

In addition to flossing, brushing and going to your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings, here are some simple ways to keep enamel strong:7

  • Avoid highly acidic foods and drinks like carbonated sodas, citrus fruits and juices
  • Rinse your mouth with water after consuming acidic foods and drinks
  • Use a straw when drinking acidic drinks
  • Don’t snack unless you’re able to rinse your mouth and brush your teeth
  • Chew sugar-free gum between meals to boost saliva production
  • Use fluoride toothpaste

How is tooth enamel erosion treated?

Since tooth enamel contains no living cells, it can’t repair damage on its own.8 One treatment option is tooth bonding: a procedure where a composite material is molded onto stained or damaged teeth. Once the composite has hardened, it can be polished to a natural-looking finish.9

For more severe cases, your dentist may add a veneer or crown to cover the damage and prevent further erosion and decay.10

Learn about dental plans with Humana

We offer a broad range of dental plans with varying levels of coverage, many with low monthly premiums. Some of our plans also feature no waiting periods, which means you could get covered in about 5 days. To see plans and prices in your area, check out our Humana Insurance Company dental insurance page.

Sources

  1. “5 Reasons Your Smile Is Stronger Than You Think,” American Dental Association, last accessed December 21, 2020, https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/fun-teeth-facts-part-2, opens new window.
  2. “Tooth Enamel: Erosion and Restoration,” WebMD, last accessed December 21, 2020, https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/tooth-enamel-erosion-restoration#1, opens new window.
  3. “Tooth Enamel: Erosion and Restoration.”
  4. “Tooth Enamel: Erosion and Restoration.”
  5. “Tooth Enamel: Erosion and Restoration.”
  6. “Tooth Enamel: Erosion and Restoration.”
  7. “Tooth Enamel: Erosion and Restoration.”
  8. “Tooth Enamel: Erosion and Restoration.”
  9. “Tooth Enamel Erosion: What You Should Know,” Healthline, last accessed December 21, 2020, https://www.healthline.com/health/enamel-erosion#can-it-grow-back, opens new window.
  10. “Tooth Enamel Erosion: What You Should Know.”