What is it?
Only the hardest substance in the human body! Amazingly, our bodies are able to produce something that is almost entirely inorganic: enamel is composed of roughly 96% minerals (primarily calcium phosphate crystals), with water and organic material comprising the rest. Enamel forms before the tooth erupts into the mouth and is built to cover the whole exposed surface of the tooth. It’s a translucent material that can vary in color, ranging from yellows to blues to whites. In its completed state, enamel has no blood or nerve supply, making repair and regrowth nearly impossible.
Enamel is your tooth’s first line of defense. It protects the underlying dentin, cementum and dental pulp - the other three tissues that make up your tooth - from environmental factors, food and bacteria.
What causes enamel erosion?
An extremely high mineral content – which accounts for its incredible strength – also makes enamel a very brittle substance, and one prone to demineralization (loss of tooth structure). Several factors can contribute to the loss of enamel:
What are the symptoms?
How can I protect my teeth?
As we learned earlier, fully formed enamel has no living cells, meaning unaided regrowth of enamel is simply not possible. The body does, however, have a natural process of remineralization – diffusing calcium and phosphate into the tooth to reinforce the existing crystalline structures - that can arrest enamel wear. Erosion and decay will occur when this process is outpaced by any of the above factors, but there are things we can do to support it:
What does the future hold in store?
Scientists from Bristol University and the University of Leeds have made developments over the past few years on a gel that can theoretically rebuild enamel. As yet, these gels are not commercially viable or fully tested. But, as with all the sciences, it would seem the future holds the promise of some amazing advancements!