Paying close attention to the appearance of your teeth is extremely important. Ensuring that your smile is bright and clean could save you from arriving at your business meeting with spinach wedged between your teeth. Furthermore, shining up your pearly whites with a quick whitening treatment could improve your confidence and dazzle a date. What you may not realize is that paying attention to how your teeth look could also help you spot (and ultimately treat) oral conditions. At Dr. Craig Armstrong’s Houston dental practice, we are prepared to answer any of your teeth-related questions. No dental concern is a small concern, as even the slightest change in your dental appearance could be a symptom of a more serious issue. If you notice something different about your smile, we recommend that you come in and see us for a consultation. We are dedicated to keeping our patients informed and, above all else, healthy. In the following blog, we answer the question: why are my teeth transparent at the bottom?
Elements of Enamel Erosion
Your teeth have several layers. The outermost layer is the enamel, which protects the inner-portion of the tooth and gives it its lustrous look. Enamel is both vital and vulnerable. As Michele Borboa explains in her SheKnows Health & Wellness article, “Though tooth enamel, the thin but sturdy calcified material covering your teeth is the hardest and most mineralized substance in your body, it isn’t indestructible.” In certain circumstances enamel can begin to wear away, leading to a variety of symptoms, ranging from “sensitive teeth” to “cracks,” cavities, discoloration, “rounded edges,” and — you guessed it — “transparent-looking tips of the teeth.” Fundamentally, your teeth look translucent at the bottom because your enamel is eroding.
As the Academy of General Dentistry explains, “transparency” is one of the “signs of tooth erosion, ranging from its early stages (sensitivity, discoloration, rounded teeth) to the more severe stages (cracks, severe sensitivity, cupping).” If you suffer from this symptom, “your front teeth may appear slightly transparent near the biting edges,” as well as in other areas of your mouth.
The Clear Causes
We’ve established that your teeth are turning translucent because your enamel is eroding, but what is actually causing this damage? There are a few common culprits, which include:
§ Dietary behaviors. WebMD notes that a diet “high in sugar and starches” can wear down your enamel. Furthermore, “excessive soft drink consumption” can damage your teeth, since these beverages have “high levels of phosphoric and citric acids.” While they may seem healthy, “fruit drinks” can also be the a source of erosion because, “some acids in fruit drinks are more erosive than battery acid.” To help alleviate and prevent tooth erosion, the Academy of General Dentistry advises, “reduce or eliminate drinking carbonated drinks. Instead, drink water, milk, tea, or coffee – but skip the sugar!” This institution also recommends, “[drinking] acidic drinks quickly and [using] a straw so that the liquid is pushed to the back of the mouth,” as well as “[rinsing] with water” after consuming sugar or acidic drinks or meals to “neutralize the acids.”
§ Medical conditions. According to WebMD, “Acid reflux disease” or “GERD” (which stands for Gastroesophageal reflux disease) and other “gastrointestinal problems can make your mouth more acidic, damaging your enamel. In fact, a 2018 study published in the medical journal Auris, Nasus, Larynx “investigated oral changes in an experimental rat mode of GERD and observed development of dental erosion” and its “findings suggested chronic gastric acid reflux may be involved in the pathogenesis [disease development] of oral disease.” Acid reflux isn’t the only condition that can contribute to enamel erosion or, therefore, transparent teeth. Colgate Oral Care Center reports, “conditions like celiac disease [an intestinal disorder involving severe gluten intolerance] can result in poor enamel development, which gives your teeth a translucent appearance as a result.” The connection between celiac disease and transparent enamel is so prevalent that a 2018 piece published in Archives of Oral Biology concluded, “patients with enamel developmental defects should be screened for the possibility of their having celiac disease.” If you have translucent enamel, make an appointment with Dr. Armstrong in order to identify a solution.
§ Xerostomia. Also known as dry mouth, this condition indicates insufficient salivary flow. Believe it or not, your spit naturally cleans your mouth, rinsing away particulate matter and fighting cavities with special enzymes. If you don’t generate enough saliva, your teeth will be at a much greater risk for acid erosion, from both bacteria and from the acidity found in certain foods. As the Journal of Dentistry describes in a 2015 report, “Low-salivary flow promoted higher erosive conditions for teeth and restorations.” Similarly, the Journal of the American Dental Association published a study of Mexican teenagers in 2016 which found that, “erosive tooth wear…was associated with…xerostomia,” among other factors (such as “age” and “high intake of sweet carbonated drinks”). Dr. Armstrong and our team can help you determine why and treat your mouth to ensure that it stays appropriately hydrated.
§ Congenital factors. WebMD explains that “inherited conditions” can predispose you to enamel erosion. Certain patients’ genes make them a more likely candidate for dealing with enamel erosion and transparent teeth. A study of nearly 800 “Norwegian adolescents 16-18 years” published in Caries Research in 2015 concluded, “The present study suggests that polymorphisms [variations] in enamel formation genes are statistically associated with an individual’s susceptibility to dental erosive wear.” In addition, a 2013 report published in Dentistry 3000noted, “Characteristics of enamel may influence or modulate individual susceptibility to caries [decay] and erosion. These characteristics are defined during development, which is under strict genetic control, but can easily be modified in many ways by environmental factors.” This suggests that your genes and the way in which your enamel develops could make you more susceptible to erosion and translucence. If you appear to have especially vulnerable enamel or have a family history of erosion, it is vital that you come in for your preventive care appointments, take excellent care of your teeth, and eat a healthy diet to avoid suffering from transparent teeth.
§ Some medications. For example, a 2006 article in the International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry found, “Antihistamine-containing syrup reduced the hardness of primary (baby tooth) enamel.” Antihistamines can have an erosive effect on child and adult teeth alike. The Journal of the American Dental Association also published a study on two patients in which “aspirin was the only possible cause of tooth erosion.” In addition to aspirin, other painkillers can cause or worsen erosion. If you’re suffering from transparent teeth, Dr. Armstrong will review your medical records with you to possibly identify medications that may be contributing to your condition. If medication side effects are the source of your symptoms, you may need to see your general physician to find out if you are able to be prescribed something else.
§ Some “environmental factors” including “friction, wear and tear, stress, and corrosion,” according WebMD, could be contributing to the destruction of your teeth. If you suffer from bruxism (grinding of the teeth during sleep due to tension), you could be wearing down the enamel on your chewing surfaces without knowing that you’re doing it. We can make you a custom oral appliance to preotect your teeth and prevent the damage caused by bruxism. Regularly chewing on hard candy, ice, or other brittle foods could have an impact on your enamel, as well. Dr. Armstrong and his team team can help you improve your diet to prevent erosion.
If your teeth appear to be translucent, one or more of the above factors could be the reason why.
How We Can Help
Dr. Armstrong and his team are here to help with all oral concerns. We can schedule a consultation in order to create a customized treatment plan for you. For instance, if dietary issues are causing your enamel to erode, we can help you slow this process and prevent further damage at your biannual cleaning and examination appointments. If thinning enamel is making you self-conscious about your smile, Dr. Armstrong can also perform cosmetic dentistry treatments to enhance the appearance of your teeth.
Contact Our Houston Dental Practice Today
Do you have questions about the appearance of your smile? Are your teeth becoming transparent? Dr. Armstrong and his Houston dental team are here to help. Contact us today to find out more and schedule an appointment!