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Having bright, beautiful teeth isn’t just about brushing twice a day. It also depends on the strength of your enamel, the outermost layer of your teeth and the first line of defense against daily wear and tear. What you eat and drink, as well as certain medical conditions or medications, can strip away the minerals that make your enamel strong. Genetics and early childhood experiences may also play a role in the toughness of your teeth and their susceptibility to cavities.

Dentists want you to know what weakens your teeth and how to keep them strong. Some people simply have thinner or more brittle enamel, which can be the result of rare genetic disorders. However, more often enamel issues are associated with environmental factors that could disrupt its formation in utero or in early childhood. Research has linked prenatal health issues like vitamin D deficiency or gestational diabetes to greater incidence of enamel defects in children. Weak enamel can lead to tooth sensitivity, especially to heat or cold, and make you more prone to cavities.

In older teens and adults, acidic foods and drinks cause most of the enamel erosion that dentists see. These include fruit juices, sports drinks, sodas, sparkling water, and foods that have vinegar, like pickles. Coffee, while somewhat acidic, is not as erosive as citrus drinks and sodas, especially in moderate amounts. However, adding sugar to your coffee could feed the bacteria in your mouth, which then produce acid that can weaken your teeth. Items that stick to your teeth are also problematic as they slowly weaken your enamel and make your teeth more vulnerable to cavities or chips.

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A person’s teeth can also be weakened by chronic acid reflux, frequent vomiting, or occupational exposures to certain acids. Saliva can stave off damage by buffering or neutralizing acid in the mouth and coating teeth with important minerals that help with remineralization. However, people with chronic dry mouth due to certain medical conditions or medications may lack this protection and be prone to weakened teeth.

Although some factors are uncontrollable, there are still steps you can take to protect and strengthen your enamel. Brushing and flossing diligently are essential, but you should wait at least half an hour to an hour after eating or drinking to give your saliva time to wash acids away before you brush. Using products that contain fluoride is also recommended, as it brings calcium and phosphorus together in your saliva to make enamel harder and more resistant to decay. Dentists might also recommend fluoride mouthwash or high-fluoride toothpaste for those with weaker teeth or are more susceptible to cavities.

To prevent erosion, limit your consumption of acidic foods and beverages, avoid sipping on drinks for long periods of time, and rinse your mouth after eating. Regular dental checkups can also help catch and repair damage early on.

Overall, taking care of your teeth is essential for maintaining a beautiful smile and preventing dental issues in the future.