January 2014 newsletter
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Enamel erosion: Exposing this sensitive situation

Your teeth are covered by a hard outer layer called enamel. Its job is to protect teeth from daily wear and tear. Enamel is extremely strong, but acids will eventually erode it. When that occurs, protection for the underlying dentin layer is compromised. Microscopic tubules in the dentin then allow sweet, cold, and hot foods and beverages to irritate nerves in the teeth.

What causes this sensitive situation?
  • Excessive consumption of soft drinks and fruit juices which have a high acid content.
  • Eating lots of sour food or candies.
  • Poor oral hygiene. Harmful bacteria thrive on food debris (especially starch and sugar) left in the mouth, and excrete enamel-eating acids.
  • Chronic dry mouth – saliva helps to neutralize acids and flush food debris.
  • Acid reflux or heartburn allows stomach acids to enter the mouth.
  • Frequent vomiting such as binge drinking, alcoholism, or bulimia.
  • Some medications (like aspirin) and supplements (vitamin C) if taken regularly or in large amounts.
  • Aggressive brushing with a hard toothbrush.
  • Bruxism – grinding and clenching.
Your best defense against enamel erosion is a healthy diet, good home oral hygiene, and regular dental visits. Fluoride toothpaste or mouth rinse can help to strengthen teeth.
Defend your dentition

Dentition is the type, number, and arrangement of teeth in your mouth. You might be considering dental or orthodontic treatment to improve your dentition, but you probably don’t want it altered accidently. A mouthguard protects teeth during contact sports or any activity with risk of falling or facial trauma.

Mouthguards come in three categories, and you get what you pay for in terms of protection.

A stock mouthguard can be purchased inexpensively at discount or sporting goods stores. This type affords little real protection because of poor fit. You usually have to clench down to hold it in place, so it inhibits breathing, and speaking.

A mouth-formed guard fits a little more comfortably, but probably won’t extend far enough to protect back teeth. You soften the thermoplastic guard in hot water and shape it to your teeth with bite pressure, fingers, and tongue. It is available at stores that sell sports equipment.

To best protect your teeth, lips, and soft tissues, opt for a custom made mouthguard, created from impressions of your own mouth. You’ll actually wear it, because the fit is comfortable and doesn’t interfere with performance. In addition, it may reduce your risk of concussion or neck injury from a blow to the chin.

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