Have you ever heard someone say that they have ‘soft teeth’ and wondered what they meant?
96 percent of your teeth’s enamel is composed of minerals, making this outer, protective layer of your teeth your body’s hardest substance, and people with dental decay often blame their genetics and ‘soft teeth.’ However, most individuals have ‘soft’ or lacking enamel due to wear or erosion over time and not because of genetics. Repeated exposure to sugary foods and starches combined with poor oral hygiene enables bacteria to eat through dental tissue — including your enamel, dentin, cementum, and pulp — causing pain, sensitivity, cavities, and frequent visits to the dentist for treatment.
What Are Some Misconceptions Around Soft Teeth?
Several misconceptions surround soft teeth. Many believe that an increase in decay and cavities as an adult is due to new allergies, pregnancy, breastfeeding, or a diabetes diagnosis. Sometimes, people attribute tooth decay to genetics by claiming that their teeth are ‘soft’ and naturally more susceptible to decay.
While it’s true that some people may have slightly softer enamel than others, making them more cavity-prone, most individuals who experience frequent or extensive decay actually have normal enamel.
What Exactly Does Soft Teeth Mean?
So, if soft teeth, or weakened enamel, isn’t usually a result of a genetic flaw, what causes it?
Instead of genetics, poor oral health care routines, acid reflux, and excessive sugar consumption are often the culprits behind weakened enamel and frequent trips to the dentist for fillings. However, there are a few exceptions where weakened enamel may be the result of amelogenesis imperfecta or childhood health and dental issues.
What Are Some Things That Cause Soft Teeth?
Poor Oral Hygiene Habits
Perhaps the number one cause behind weakened enamel is poor oral hygiene habits. If you don’t brush or floss often (or thoroughly enough), plaque will form and the bacteria will release enamel-eroding acids. However, it’s also important to note that brushing too vigorously can also cause enamel erosion.
Exposure To Acids
However, poor dental habits aren’t the only things responsible for enamel erosion. Those suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (also known as GERD) or bulimia have a much higher risk of enamel erosion and the resulting decay due to repeated contact between acids and the enamel.
Breaking or chipping your teeth will have a lasting impact on your enamel — even if your tooth is repaired. Traumatized teeth are often weaker than before the injury, increasing your risk of enamel erosion and decay. Additionally, grinding your teeth can wear down your enamel over time.
When the mineralization process, or the enamel creation process, is interrupted, hypomineralization occurs. Hypomineralization can result in textured or soft enamel, leading to a higher risk of decay.
Problems in childhood
Some examples of problems from childhood that can carry into adulthood include:
- A severe fever: Severe fevers in childhood can prevent cells from remineralizing teeth, weakening the enamel and increasing risk of cavities and decay.
- Cross-contamination: Parents share many things with their children, but it’s important to remember not to share cups, food, or utensils. If shared with a child, these items can spread cavity-causing bacteria from the parents to their children.
- Enamel fluorosis: Fluoride is great for teeth and can help fight decay. However, if a child receives an excessive amount of fluoride when their teeth are still developing, they may have weaker teeth with fewer minerals.
- Malnutrition: Calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D strengthen tooth enamel, making your teeth more resistant to decay. However, if you don’t receive enough nutrients and minerals as a child due to malnutrition, you may become predisposed to decay.
- Amelogenesis Imperfecta: People with this rare condition may experience problems during enamel formation, resulting in pitting, discoloration, or other abnormalities, making them more prone to cavities and decay.
How To Prevent Damage and Decay
Unfortunately, your enamel can’t repair itself once it’s destroyed. Fortunately, there are several actions you can take and lifestyle changes you can make to prevent your enamel from weakening in the first place.
Quitting smoking, reviewing your medications (those that cause dry mouth may put you at a higher risk of decay and cavities), and purchasing a mouth guard to protect your teeth if you grind them at night can help prevent enamel erosion. Engaging in good dental hygiene practices and adjusting your diet may also help.
Practice Good Dental Hygiene
Consistently engaging in good dental hygiene practices is the best thing you can do for your enamel. This means brushing twice a day (preferably with fluoride toothpaste) and flossing at least once. Be careful not to brush or floss too hard, as this can damage your enamel and gums.
Instead, invest in a soft-bristle toothbrush, an electric toothbrush, or a water flosser to remove more plaque without causing damage. If you need a quick refresher on brushing and flossing effectively, ask your dental hygienist or dentist for tips while at a regular checkup.
Adjust Your Diet
Cut back on sugary and starchy foods, as these foods will cling to your teeth, allowing bacteria to thrive. Sugary drinks, such as soda and juice, are usually acidic, and they attract bacteria, making them particularly detrimental to enamel. If you frequently snack throughout the day, try to stick to a regular meal schedule, as snacking continually feeds the bacteria in your mouth.
Drinking fluoridated water will not only help prevent dry mouth, but it will also strengthen your teeth and slow down decay. In addition to introducing fluoridated water to your diet, consume more vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products.
When Should You See A Professional?
If you’ve noticed visible holes, divots, or discoloration, it’s probably time to visit your dentist. Even if you haven’t noticed any signs of weakened enamel or decay, plan to visit your dentist twice a year, as they can thoroughly clean your teeth and catch early signs of weakened enamel. Contact Espire today to schedule an appointment.