We all do it every day.  We brush our teeth at least once a day.  But, are we putting our teeth in danger from this simple necessary activity?

Enamel is the outer layer of the tooth that envelops and protects the main portion of the tooth.  This is the layer that we brush (and possibly abuse) everyday. Enamel is the hardest substance in the body and is almost entirely composed of calcium salts. Even though enamel supplies color for our teeth,  its most important role is to protect the softer underlying dentin of the tooth. Enamel also serves as the surface for chewing, grinding, and crushing of food and this is another reason for its hardness. However, once the enamel layer is breached, the layer of dentin is exposed.  The microscopic tubes inside the dentin allow hot, cold, or sweet foods to stimulate nerves within the tooth. As a result, you may notice that your teeth may become painfully sensitive.

Often, people ask me which toothpaste to use.  I used to tell them to look on the box and find the “abrasiveness index” and use a paste that has a good flavor and has a relatively low index—like fewer than 70.  But, the FDA and ADA took that option away from me about 2 years ago. Toothpaste companies are no longer required to report the abrasiveness index of their products.  The latest index I can find does not include the newest toothpastes, but, I can tell you that the least abrasive is water and your toothbrush. The most abrasive ones are the whitening toothpastes.  Whitening toothpastes use either abrasives or enzymes to remove stains. Abrasive ones have a gritty consistency which literally scrubs the stain off the tooth. However, over time, this can also scrub the enamel away and damage the gum.  Yes, friends, you are brushing the protective covering right off your teeth by trying to clean them.  So stay away from toothpaste that claims to “whiten and brighten” your teeth; or, at least use it sparingly. These toothpastes are more abrasive and will in time wear away your enamel.

Now, what about foods and drinks?  Are they wreaking havoc on our enamel as well?  Stay tuned.  That issue is coming…..