Ask A Dental Hygienist: Why do we lose enamel?

Ask a Dental Hygienist 

Kristina asked, “When you lose enamel, can it be linked to diet, leaky gut, stress, autoimmune issues, etc.?”

Oooh, I love this question but I gotta be honest… I could spend an afternoon talking about it since this can be fairly involved… AND it might be hard for me to stay on topic. (I’m know for tangents)

So, to keep this as brief as possible, the answer is a definite and resounding, without a doubt YES!! But please keep reading.

What is Enamel?

Enamel is the outer shell that protects our teeth. It is the hardest substance in our bodies and capable of resisting enormous amounts of chemical and physical stress.  Unfortunately, it is the only tissue we have that won’t replace itself, so it’s important to understand what can damage our enamel so we can prevent it’s destruction.

The Usual Suspects

When we think of cavities and our teeth becoming damaged, we often blame sugar or poor brushing and flossing habits alone.  We all know that germs and too much sugar will cause cavities so that’s what we try most to avoid.  I’ll be honest, early in my career I may have assumed anyone with bleeding gums or decay was just being lazy and not doing their homework.  It didn’t take long for me to see the oral/systemic link in action. Patients who brushed and flossed religiously were still coming in with new cavities.  I could see that they didn’t have much tartar and were not motivated to exaggerate their efforts at home.  Some patients came in every three months for a cleaning and continued to have gingivitis.  I began looking closely at medical histories and time after time, people that took multiple medications, had chronic illness or were going through bouts of extreme stress were also having more dental problems.  So, what was it about a variety of scenarios was causing so much inflammation and/or broken down enamel?

It all comes down to pH and spit!!

The spit in your mouth is loaded with enzymes, proteins, minerals and other pH buffering agents that coat and protect your teeth.  Every time you eat something, the enzymes in your spit start to break down your food and acid is created.  Within 10-20  minutes (in a good situation), your spit balances the pH and repairs any temporary damage to the enamel covering your teeth.  This process happens over and over and as long as your teeth are moist and soaking in minerals, everything in your mouth is peaceful.   Any offset in a person’s spit can lead them into a downward spiral of dry mouth and dental problems.  Medical conditions are often treated with prescription medications… which can cause dry mouth… and medical conditions themselves can also cause us reduced salivary flow.

Just look at this excerpt from WebMd (yes it’s good for general information):

“Causes of dry mouth include:

  • Side effect of certain medical treatments. Damage to the salivary glands, the glands that make saliva, can reduce the amount of saliva produced. For example, the damage could stem from radiation to the head and neck, and chemotherapytreatments, for cancer.”

As you can see and hopefully you are catching my drift that spit is super important!!!

Digestions Matters

In regards to a leaky gut and other digestive issues… many holistic doctors agree that the lining of the small intestine is fragile and when it’s weak, it can cause all kinds of medical conditions like chronic fatigue, arthritis and other types of inflammation throughout the body. You can swallow millions to trillions of bacteria on a daily basis even when you are watching your diet.  As long as your digestive system is working fine, there is balance in your body and you stay relatively healthy.   However, when you have a chronic condition like leaky gut, your system gets overloaded and the bacteria start to wreak havoc. Your mouth and the teeth hiding in it are not free from harm.  A malfunction in your digestive system can limit the percentage of important vitamins and nutrients that are absorbed into the cells of our body and help us heal.  Inflammation definitely shows up in the mouths of people that are dealing with digestive issues and vitamin deficiencies.

Stress is stressful

Whether you are talking about mental anguish or physical stress, either one can cause problems with your teeth.  When you are running on fumes, aren’t getting enough sleep, start grinding your teeth or fail to eat well, your system starts to weaken.  Your immune system works best when it is fed, rested and watered.  Just like a beautiful rose.  (Where on earth did I get that???!!)  If you’ve ever heard of “trench mouth”, you will know what I’m talking about.  People under intense pressure with a lowered ability to care for their mouths will often start to show signs of acute periodontal disease.  The bacteria that may have been present for a long time are suddenly given the opportunity to take over and they destroy soft tissue and bone very quickly.

So, what can you do to prevent damage to your enamel?

  • stay hydrated
  • reduce medications if possible
  • stay away from products that dry your mouth out (contain alcohol)
  • exercise to keep your body in tip top shape
  • use products that coat and protect your teeth  (see your dentist or hygienist  for specifics)
  • Eat raw, unprocessed and vitamin rich foods as much as possible
  • brush and floss everyday to reduce inflammation
  • get your dental checkup and cleaning on a schedule suited to your needs
  • live a happy life.  laugh a lot, keep moving and try stress reductions strategies on a daily basis



  • Kills Germs That Cause Bad Breath
  • Long Lasting Fresh Breath
  • Gently Whitens Teeth WITHOUT Harsh Chemicals
  • Rich in Minerals that Restores Enamel
  • With Zinc Citrate to Freshen Breath & help Reduce Plaque
  • Xylitol, Remineralization of the Deeper Layers of the Demineralized Enamel
  • Natural Mints & Tea Tree Oil Complex for a Naturally Cleansing Action
  • Natural Essential Oils & Aloe Extracts to help in Refreshing Mouth



Aids in the hydration and re-moisturizing the whole mouth to combat extreme dry mouth symptoms.

With daily use and repeated application as needed, the unique proprietary natural essential oil complex help in coating and reducing excessive moisture loss, while the combination of natural sweetener xylitol, inner leaf aloe extract, vegetable derived glycerin, and natural green tea extract in addition to the other humectants deeply hydrate the oral tissue.

  • Kills germs that cause bad breath
  • Long lasting fresh breath
  • Gently whitens teeth without harsh chemicals
  • With baking soda, to actively neutralize acids & natural whitening action
  • Rich in minerals that help restore minerals on teeth
  • Xylitol, natural sweetener with beneficial minerals for the enamel
  • With zinc citrate to freshen breath & help reduce plaque
  • Natural mints & tea tree oil complex for a naturally cleansing action
  • Natural essential oils & aloe extracts to help in refreshing mouth and aid in reducing oral cavity bacteria naturally
  • Fortified with antioxidant natural vitamin E enhance gum and tissue health
  • Natural avocado oil, green tea extracts for a healthier mouth
  • No alcohol
  • No propylene glycols
  • No fluoride
  • No artificial sweeteners



As always, thanks for reading!  I hope this information helps a few of you.  Let me know if you have any questions of input!




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