Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in your body — even stronger than your bones. It protects the innermost layers of your tooth (dentin and pulp) from damage. Even though enamel is strong, bacteria, plaque and acids in your mouth can damage it.
Your enamel is the protective, outer covering of your tooth. It shields your tooth crown (the part you can see above your gums) from cavities and damage.
Tooth enamel is incredibly durable. In fact, it’s the hardest substance in your body — even harder than your bones.
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Tooth enamel mostly consists of calcium and phosphorus. These minerals, which make up 95% of your enamel, bond together to form ultra-strong crystallites (small crystals).
The rest of your enamel consists of water (4%) and proteins (1%).
Enamel is semi-translucent. Dentin (the layer underneath) can vary in color, from grayish-white to light yellow and everything in between. Together, enamel and dentin give your teeth their unique shade.
Several factors can contribute to tooth enamel loss, including:
Tooth enamel erosion exposes the inner layers of your teeth to open air and the foods and drinks you consume. This makes your teeth more vulnerable to cavities. In addition, tooth enamel loss can make your teeth more sensitive to heat, cold and sweets. They may also stain more easily.
Dentists can repair small cavities. But left untreated, even tiny cavities can grow into much larger ones, eventually leading to infections and painful tooth abscesses.
No, if your enamel is completely gone, you can’t bring it back. But your dentist can place a dental crown over your tooth to protect it from further damage.
While you can’t regrow enamel that’s gone, dentists can restore damaged tooth enamel with fluoride treatments. Fluoride remineralizes and strengthens the outer layers of your teeth.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in many foods and water. It comes in pill form or topical (a dentist puts it directly on your teeth). Dentists use fluoride to restore tooth enamel naturally, making your teeth less susceptible to cavities and other damage.
Prevention is the best way to ensure your enamel stays strong and healthy. Here are some tips to help keep your oral hygiene in check:
When used properly, teeth whitening doesn’t damage your enamel. However, some whitening products can dehydrate your teeth. If you’re interested in teeth whitening, talk to a dentist about safe product recommendations.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Enamel is the hardest substance in your body. It protects your teeth from cavities and everyday wear and tear. Although tooth enamel is durable, it’s not indestructible. To keep it healthy, visit your dentist regularly and practice good oral hygiene. Your dentist can also recommend fluoride products and tell you how to strengthen tooth enamel at home.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/06/2023.
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