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Enamel

Reviewed by: Paul Selinger, DMD

Enamel is the thin outer covering of the tooth.

The thickness of enamel varies, and it is usually thickest at the cusp of the tooth and thinnest at the border. Enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body, and its major function is to protect teeth from daily wear and tear. Drinking beverages like coffee, tea, cola, and red wine and smoking may cause surface stains on the enamel. However, enamel is translucent, and dentin, not enamel, is the major determinant of tooth color.

Though enamel is extremely strong, it does not contain living cells. This means that if enamel gets chipped, cracked, or eroded, the body is unable to replace it. Since enamel plays such a central role in protecting the teeth, damage to the enamel can lead to tooth sensitivity, increased susceptibility to decay, and discoloration. Enamel erosion is a particular concern for patients with bulimia, since the acidity of vomit puts the enamel at risk of destruction.

Fluoride treatment is a popular method for prevention of enamel damage. Fluoride helps strengthen the mineral composition of the enamel. After fluoride treatments, enamel is much more resistant to acid and bacterial attack.

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