Tooth Enamel Loss: Signs, Causes, and Prevention Tips

Monday, March 20, 2023
Tooth Enamel Loss: Signs, Causes, and Prevention Tips

Enamel—the hard, outer coating of our teeth—protects the sensitive, inner parts of the tooth from physical and chemical damage. As the first defense against chemicals in our foods and our bodies, tooth enamel is exposed to constant wear and tear. Tooth enamel loss or erosion is the loss or deterioration of the enamel caused by exposure to acids.

Once tooth enamel is damaged, it cannot be brought back. But weakened tooth enamel can be repaired to some degree and further erosion can be prevented. Here is some information on the signs of enamel erosion, possible causes, and what you can do to prevent enamel loss.

Tooth Enamel Loss: Common Signs

A family of three brushing their teeth together. The signs of enamel erosion can vary, depending upon what stage the loss is in. Our dentists at Penn Dental Family Practice often see signs that include:

  • Mild Sensitivity: You may feel twinges of pain when exposed to cold, hot, acidic, or spicy foods and drinks.
  • Discoloration: As you lose enamel, more of the underlying part of the tooth is exposed, and the teeth may appear yellow or discolored.
  • Cracks and chips: The edges of teeth can develop more rough edges as the enamel breaks down.
  • Smooth, shiny spots: As the minerals are lost, small, shiny spots may appear on the teeth.
  • Severe sensitivity: Over time, the loss of tooth enamel can increase sensitivity to hot, cold, and sweet foods, causing a strong sense of pain.
  • Indentations: Otherwise known as cupping, small indentations may surface where you bite and chew.
  • Tooth decay: As enamel is weakened, small holes in your teeth called cavities can form.
  • Fractured teeth: Gradual wearing down of enamel can cause teeth to weaken and break.

Enamel Erosion: Common Causes

As stated, erosion of the tooth enamel occurs over time and typically occurs when an excessive amount of acids wear at the enamel. Common causes of tooth enamel loss include:

Excess Consumption of Foods/Drinks (with numerous acids)

  • Soft drinks (sodas).
  • Fruit drinks.
  • Sour foods or candies.
  • High-sugar content foods.
  • Starchy foods.
  • Alcoholic beverages.

Dry Mouth

Saliva moistens and cleanses our mouths, helps digest food, and prevents infection in the mouth. When you don’t make enough saliva, your mouth gets dry and can cause loss of tooth enamel.

A young boy being examined at the dentist with his mother overlooking. Acid reflux disease (GERD) or Heartburn

Stomach acids that make their way to your mouth can cause tooth enamel loss over time.

Medications and Vitamins

  • Antihistamines.
  • Decongestants.
  • Aspirin.
  • Opioid pain medications.
  • High blood pressure medications.
  • Antidepressants.
  • Muscle relaxants.
  • Vitamin C.

Be sure to share your list of medications—past and present—with your dentist so you can receive an effective, safe treatment plan.


Genes play a significant part in the development of your teeth and enamel. Weak enamel may be due to your genes.

Preventing Enamel Loss: Top 10 Tips

A senior man smiling at the dentist looking at his teeth in the mirror.Since lost tooth enamel cannot be restored, it’s important to include acid-reduction practices in your daily routine to avoid erosion, including:

Diet and Eating

Eat Foods That Strengthen Enamel: Foods high in calcium, like milk and cheese, can build and strengthen tooth enamel.

Eat Acidic Foods with Meals: Include acidic foods with your meals—instead of snacking—to reduce their contact with your teeth and allow other foods to help neutralize them.

Wash Down Food and Drinks with Water: Water washes the potentially eroding acid out of your mouth.

Try Low or No-sugar Drinks: Reduce high-sugar soft drinks and fruit drinks that have an excess of enamel-eroding sugars.

Oral Health Routines

Rinse Your Mouth After Eating or Drinking: Drinking some water immediately after eating can wash away any lingering acid.

Wait before Brushing After You Eat: Waiting at least half an hour before you brush may avoid some damage to the enamel by allowing it to build itself up.

Avoid Overbrushing: While brushing is essential to overall good oral health, overbrushing may deteriorate your teeth enamel. We recommend using a “soft” toothbrush.

Use Fluoride Toothpaste: Dentists recommend fluoride toothpaste to help strengthen enamel and fight against acidic foods and drinks.

Prevent Teeth Grinding: If you grind your teeth, you may be contributing to tooth enamel loss over time. Dentists can fit you with a custom mouthguard to prevent grinding and protect your teeth.

Schedule Regular Checkups: Checkups help in the early detection of enamel erosion. Your dentist can provide enamel-protection treatments specific to your situation, which can go a long way in protecting and maintaining your overall dental health.

Penn Dental Family Practice is focused on addressing the individual dental needs of each member of your family. So much so that we created a free eBook to help you determine the right dental office for your family. Check out our eBook, Discover the Solution to Your Tooth Pain: How to Identify a Dentist Office You Can Trust. Download here.