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Enamel protects your teeth—so be sure to protect your enamel (and your smile)!

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Enamel protects your teeth—so be sure to protect your enamel (and your smile)!

Bucky Beaver had the right idea, even 60 years ago, when he encouraged us to “brusha, brusha, brusha.”* A recent Northwestern University study reports that beavers—who don’t drink fluoridated water and don’t brush their teeth—have protection against tooth decay built into the chemical structure of their teeth: iron!

Researchers have found that the enamel in beavers’ teeth is harder and more resistant to acid than a human’s dental enamel, including enamel treated with fluoride. The discovery of this unique feature of beavers’ tooth enamel could lead to a better understanding of human tooth decay, earlier detection of the disease and improvements in current fluoride treatments.

Since humans don’t have this built-in protection for our tooth enamel, what can we do—besides brushing—to help protect our teeth from erosion and decay? Although there are many different reasons why we may experience tooth erosion, we know that the enamel on our teeth can be weakened by the acid found in many foods and drinks. Here are some general ways we can protect our teeth:

  • Reduce or eliminate drinking carbonated drinks. Instead, drink water, milk or tea – but skip the sugar and honey, and note that some teas can be more acidic than others.
  • When consuming acidic drinks, drink them quickly and use a straw so that the liquid is pushed to the back of the mouth. Avoid swishing them around or holding them in the mouth for long periods.
  • Don't let acidic foods linger in the mouth; swallow them as soon as they’ve been chewed enough so that they are ready to digest.
  • Instead of snacking on acidic foods throughout the day, eat these foods just during meal times in order to minimize the amount of time the acid is on the teeth.
  • After consuming high-acid food or drinks, rinse with water to neutralize the acids.
  • Chew sugar free gum that contains xylitol to help promote remineralization of tooth enamel. The saliva stimulated by chewing gum with xylitol helps strengthen the teeth and protect them against dental erosion.

Of course, we should always brush with a soft toothbrush and be sure the toothpaste contains fluoride. The dentist may also recommend daily use of a toothpaste to reduce sensitivity (over-the-counter or prescription strength) or other products to counter the effects of erosion.

*Read more about Military Appreciation Month and the history and traditions of Memorial Day.

Information for this article provided in part by: Academy of General Dentistry, WebMD, Northwestern University, and the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company.

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