Everything Enamel: Separating Facts from Fiction

Learn Which Oral Hygiene ‘Facts’ are Mere Myths and Which Ones are Actually True!

Since you were a child, you’ve probably heard a lot of advice and cautionary tales when it comes to taking care of your teeth. Did you hear the one about how a cup of Coca Cola dissolves a healthy adult tooth in a day? It’s an exaggeration, it turns out. You may have heard that you should (or shouldn’t!) brush your teeth immediately following meals, or that teeth whitening will weaken your enamel. Rather than having you navigate all of these truths and untruths on your own, we’ve separated the facts from fiction, so you can ditch unnecessary tooth drama once and for all.

  • Tooth enamel is harder than bone.

This is a true statement—tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, skeletal system included. Put this one in your pocket for your next round of trivia, anatomy edition.

  • You should brush your teeth right after you eat.

False! While it might be good for your breath—and subsequently, the company you’re keeping—brushing your teeth immediately after eating can actually do more harm than good when it comes to cleaning your teeth. Your mouth defends its precious cargo—those pearly whites—with 1) your hard tooth enamel and 2) your saliva. When you eat, the acid in your saliva changes so that your mouth actually softens your tooth enamel while it’s breaking down food and washing particles away. So, if you brush immediately after eating, it’s likely that you’ll brush away at your temporarily softened enamel. Instead, wait at least a half to a full hour after eating, when your mouth’s environment is back to normal and tooth enamel resumes its hardened state.

  • Sugar rots your teeth.

A favorite narrative from the neighbor who handed out apples instead of candy on Halloween, this is a partial truth. It’s true that sugar can lead to cavity formation, but it’s not the main perpetrator in damaging your teeth. What wears at your teeth are actually the acids from bacteria that are formed when you digest carbohydrates. And while refined sugar is an example of this, all carbohydrates—even vegetables and whole grains—cause the same type of bacteria and acids to form. Acids temporarily lower the pH level of your saliva, which softens tooth enamel, leading to potential decay. While you shouldn’t immediately reach for your toothbrush right after chomping some sugary sweets, give your mouth a quick rinse with water to help wash away any particles that may be stuck to your teeth.

  • Whitening your teeth ruins your enamel.

This is largely false—your at-home whitening treatments are safe at removing surface stains and when used correctly, will not harm your tooth enamel. However, these products should always be used in moderation, because overuse of whitening products—this includes using them for longer than the suggested time or using them too often—can strip pigment and enamel in the long term. The oxidizing agents in whitening products can cause tooth and gum sensitivity, though this usually subsides within a few weeks of using the products. We recommend consulting with your dentist before embarking on any teeth-whitening regimen, because everyone’s teeth are unique and whitening products may have disparate effects based on your teeth.

  • Once you wear away tooth enamel, you’ll never get it back.

Researchers have found that over time, enamel can actually “remineralize” the calcium ions that were previously dissolved in the enamel during over-bleaching. That being said, it’s not a guarantee, or even likely, that your tooth enamel will grow back from the wear and tear of your diet, oral hygiene routine (or lack of), environment, and aging. So, it’s best to develop and maintain a healthy oral hygiene practice and eat a balanced diet to avoid losing any precious enamel. This one is predominantly a true statement.

  • Cold temperatures can crack your tooth enamel.

While it is true that extreme cold can crack your teeth, it’s not like stepping out of your house on a chilly winter morning is going to shatter your teeth, nor will biting into an ice cream bar. Our teeth were built to handle varied temperatures within the mouth, and tiny hairline cracks within the enamel are actually quite common. You can sometimes spot them when looking in the mirror. Called craze lines, these little fractures are very shallow, and do not suggest any danger to the tooth. But, if you’re noticing a lot of craze lines or you find yourself experiencing some tooth pain, it’s a good idea to check in with your dentist to make sure it’s not indicative of a larger concern.

  • Electric toothbrushes don’t clean any better than regular toothbrushes.

Not all electric toothbrushes are created equally, but most electric toothbrushes do clean your teeth better than a standard analog brush. The reason? The rotating head covers more surface area than a traditional brush, and the vibration of the bristles can help clear away more plaque. The vibrating brush also gives a comfortable, thorough massage to gums, which is an important part of maintaining good oral health. The Goby electric toothbrush also includes a two-minute timer to make sure you brush for the dentist-recommended amount, as well as 30-second reminders to make sure you’re moving your brush evenly around your mouth.

Now that we’ve covered some of the most common enamel-related facts and fictions, we hope you feel more confident when it comes to maintaining your oral hygiene routine. And the next time someone tells you that sugar rots teeth, be sure to let him or her know that all carbs—even broccoli—are in play. It will astound them.