An Education in Enamel

An Education in Enamel

When you are asked what is the strongest tissue in the body, many people immediately think it’s the teeth. They are correct, but what makes the teeth the strongest substance in the body is the thin outer layer called enamel. This layer protects our teeth from breaking and from decaying, yet because it takes such abuse every day, it is not immune to damage. New research on enamel has provided us with the genetic origins of our enamel, and it is up to us to protect what we have.

What Is Enamel?

Simply put enamel is the outermost layer of the tooth. Every tooth is made up of several layers, the middle is called the pulp and it is filled with blood and nerves. This area of the tooth supplies the tooth with the calcium and other minerals it will need to stay strong and healthy. The next layer of the tooth is called dentin. This layer is porous and makes up the bulk of the tooth. It protects the pulp and provides structural integrity to the tissue. The enamel makes up the final layer and is extremely strong. This translucent material is made largely of calcium and phosphorous. These minerals, while strong can erode due to acid and abrasion, and because the dentin soaks up most of the nutrients and minerals delivered to the pulp, repairing enamel from the inside out is quite difficult.

Where Does Enamel Come From?

Teeth begin to develop in a human fetus at six weeks of pregnancy, but it is not until three or four months of pregnancy that the enamel is formed. Recently researchers discovered that the formation of enamel is destined by your DNA. The University of Zurich-based researchers were curious about why some people tend to develop more dental caries than others despite regimented daily oral health care. They found that mutations in DNA caused some people to have more delicate enamel that is more susceptible to erosion, cracking, and decay. When an embryo is developing signaling pathways are triggered by different proteins. There are three specific proteins that signal the development of tooth enamel. If these proteins are damaged, or mutated and then signaled, damaged DNA will result. This is a colossal discovery for geneticists, not just in understanding tooth enamel, but also for understanding the development of cancer or genetic disabilities. Unfortunately if you are one of the people who suffer from genetically-deficient enamel, your teeth are at constant risk of developing cavities and experiencing damage. You must be hyper diligent in your fight against tooth decay.

How Can I Protect My Enamel?

No matter if your enamel is strong or weak, you must do your best to protect its integrity. By doing so you are helping fortify your body’s strongest tissue. The first line of defence for your enamel is adopting a beneficial oral health routine. By removing food particles from your teeth you rob harmful bacteria of the sugar it craves. The removal of sugar prevents the creation of acid which is cemented to the teeth with plaque. When acid is left on tooth enamel it begins the process of erosion. Once the acid eats through the enamel it begins on the dentin and develops a cavity. If it is able to reach the pulp, you will have quite a serious problem on your hands.

The next step in protecting your tooth’s enamel is to pay attention to the dental products you use. You can fortify your teeth with a toothpaste, or mouth rinse, containing fluoride. This mineral can spur the re-calcification of enamel.  Visiting your Melbourne, Florida dentist for periodic fluoride treatments is also beneficial for keeping your enamel strong and protected. After a comprehensive exam, Dr. Brazdo will apply a paste of concentrated fluoride on your teeth. This treatment is highly effective in fortifying enamel for around six months.

Finally fighting abrasion is extremely important. Choosing a soft-bristled toothbrush can help here. As can avoiding chewing on non-food items such as ice and pen caps.

No matter if you have perfect enamel or your DNA dealt you a sub-par hand in the dental development department, there are many things you can to do encourage the health of your enamel and teeth as a whole. If you would like to check up on your teeth, schedule an appointment with your Melbourne, Florida dentist today!