Tooth Enamel: 7 Everyday Ways You’re Damaging It

    A close-up of a woman smiling brightlyThe outer surface of your teeth, called enamel, is designed to last a lifetime. In fact, did you know it is the hardest substance in your body?

    Some wear and tear of tooth enamel is inevitable. But there are some surprisingly basic things you may be doing to damage it even more.

    Here are seven habits to work on today for a healthier, brighter smile tomorrow.

    1. Don’t Eat So Much Sugar

    Sugar leads to the production of acids in the mouth, which soften and eventually wear away at enamel. Chewy candies that stick on your teeth are particularly damaging. So are soft drinks. Along with sugar, soft drinks may contain citric acid and phosphoric acid, making them even more acidic. Artificially sweetened soft drinks are a smarter choice than sugary soft drinks. But sugarless sweeteners are acidic and may erode enamel over time. The best choice when you’re thirsty: a glass of water.

    2. Get More Calcium

    Calcium in foods neutralizes acids in your mouth. Calcium is also an essential mineral needed to keep bones strong. Milk, cheese, and other dairy products all help protect and strengthen enamel, says Pamela L. Quinones, RDH, president of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy to help keep fat and calories to a minimum. If you frequently drink orange juice, O.J. with added calcium may be the best choice. Calcium buffers the normal acidity of orange and other citrus juices.

    3. Stop Over-brushing

    Brushing too vigorously can wear down enamel. “Always use a soft brush and brush gently,” says Seldin. Hold the brush at about a 45-degree angle to your gums and move it back and forth in short strokes, about the distance of one tooth. Don’t brush immediately after eating sweets or citrus fruits. Acidic foods temporarily soften enamel and may make it more susceptible to damage from brushing. Wait for up to an hour after you eat, giving your enamel time to re-harden. Then brush your teeth.

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