Tooth enamel is mostly composed of hydroxyapatite (a naturally occurring mineral form of calcium apatite) and is one of four layers that a tooth is composed of. The remaining three layers are dentin, cementum, and dental pulp. Due to its high mineral density, enamel is the hardest part of the human body. Its color varies from light yellow to grayish white and it covers the surface of a tooth.

Purpose of Tooth Enamel

Enamels primary function is to protect the soft center (dentin) of the tooth which would otherwise be damaged from biting and grinding. In the presence of damaged or eroded enamel we would be unable to sustain the pressure of chewing without experiencing pain or further damage. Since enamel does not have any living cells in it, once damaged, our body will not heel or repair the lost enamel. As a result surgery or a crown to cover the exposed inner tooth is required. The average cost of a crown is around $1300.

Causes of Tooth Enamel Loss

There can be a number of reasons for enamel loss such as excessive intake of carbonated soft drinks containing phosphoric and citric acid, highly acidic fruit drinks and foods containing high amounts of sugar and starch. Erosion can also occur as a result of low saliva flow (xerostomia) or dry mouth, gastrointestinal problems like Acid reflux disease (GERD) and even because of prolonged use of medication such as aspirin. Some people may have genes that might cause their teeth enamel to erode faster than others.

Other factors that cause teeth enamel erosion include

  • Attrition- the involuntary grinding and tooth-to-tooth friction
  • Abrasion- the overtime wear and tear of teeth enamel due to hard brushing, wrong flossing and because of biting hard things
  • Abfraction- cracks and stress fractures because of excessive pressure or accidents
  • Corrosion- the contact of acidic content like stomach acids, medication, vomit and alcohol with the tongue and teeth

Tooth enamel damage cannot repair itself naturally as mentioned above but it can be protected and whitened through regular dental and at home cleaning and whitening treatments. Other ways to protect teeth enamel from erosion are to cut down on acidic soft/fruit drinks and foods, switching to lower acid foods, having salads or breads to neutralize food acids in meals, using softer tooth brushes, drinking more water to prevent dry mouth, using fluoride added water and tooth paste and through seeking medical attention on gastrointestinal and acid related problems.

Whitening & Other Treatments of Tooth Enamel

Depending on the color of Dentin and the genetic thickness of one's teeth enamel, teeth color can vary from yellow to grayish white from person to person. Teeth enamel can however also change color and become yellow over time due to food staining, smoking, accumulation of and thinning of tooth enamel. Through the use of carbamide whitening/bleaching gels and dental cleaning however, the color of teeth enamel can be restored to its original color which will. For optimal results use the carbamide whitening gel with custom fitted teeth whitening trays. Remember that everyones tooth enamel has a slightly different original color. Those who have naturally yellow enamel will not achieve whitened teeth, however stains will be removed.

Erin Stelbrink

Erin Stelbrink is a Registered Dental Hygienist with 11+ years of experience as a licensed hygienist and oral health care professional. She holds a passion for researching and acquiring awareness of the latest technologies and methods for providing valuable health care service and clinical treatment. Have more questions? Email Erin at