Your Changing Tooth Enamel

Close up view of a woman's mouth as she is brushing her teeth.

Do you notice your teeth changing color or shape over time? Your teeth are actually living tissues even though they are made up of almost pure mineral content. They can be damaged over time from the foods you eat, what you drink, the substances you expose them too and how good your oral hygiene is. Find out why your tooth enamel changes over time and the small things you can do to keep your teeth healthy, white and strong!


The Structure of Your Teeth

Did you know that your teeth aren’t one solid mass all the way through? There are various layers that make up your teeth. When in the womb, those teeth layers form and prepare for use when you are born. You actually have all your teeth at birth, but they lie up far in the jaws and gums. Your teeth are made up of almost pure mineral content like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus—about 96% to be exact. That means that your teeth are actually the strongest substance in your body—even stronger than the bones. Some people have teeth that can withstand up to 270 pounds of pressure in one bite.


This is also due in part because your teeth are made up of compact layers of minerals. The bones, however, are made up of porous cartilage inside along with blood vessels, stem cells and other components. The part of your teeth that you see is the crown of your tooth, which is very thick with tooth enamel. This is the very hard, white substance that stands up to all the chewing and eating that you do. Within this layer is the dentin, or a layer that is also mineral content, but with a few porous holes here and there. It is a very hard layer, just not as strong as your tooth enamel layer.


Your teeth are actually living tissues still and contain nerves and blood vessels just like other living tissues. These structures lie in the very center of your tooth, called the tooth “pulp”. If you have tooth decay that gets big enough that it reaches this inside layer, you will start to feel your toothache, and it’s because of the nerves inside of your tooth. Those nerves lie primarily in the roots of your tooth and the area right before the tooth branches into roots. However, your tooth roots are covered and protected by your gums.


A dental professional holding a model of a tooth and pointing to the tooth enamel.

Why Does Tooth Enamel Change Color?

If you notice your tooth enamel changing color over time, your eyes do not deceive you. If you’ve had your teeth whitened before, it’s definitely possible for your tooth enamel to still change colors. In fact, most people have to whiten their tooth enamel about every 7 years due to color changes that happen with wear and tear over time. There are various reasons your tooth enamel will change color:

  • Foods and drinks: These items pass through your mouth countless times in a day. If you drink acidic drinks such as soda and juices every day, those will definitely change your teeth. Carbonic acid in soda and citric acid in juices will demineralize the top layers of your teeth, breaking them up and wearing the tooth enamel away. If you see your tooth enamel getting thinner over time or your teeth looking more transparent, it’s because that layer is starting to show through to the dentin layer.
  • Mineralization: Your saliva pulls minerals from your food and helps remineralize the teeth. That remineralization happens because acidic foods and sugar strip away minerals from your teeth. You constantly have new minerals being deposited on your teeth.
  • Age: You can take great care of your teeth and still experience tooth enamel change over time, especially when you are over 55. Your tooth enamel gets weaker as you age, which can also show that inner dentin layer, which is more yellow or gray.
  • Tooth decay: You know this by the term “cavities”. Bacteria in your mouth mixes with sugar to create plaque. When you don’t brush and floss your teeth, that plaque stays on the teeth, and it’s acidic nature will demineralize and decay your teeth. When tooth decay is severe (especially in children), your teeth may literally start to turn gray or black.
  • Dyes: If you avoid acidic foods and drinks, your tooth enamel can still change color from other foods. Berries that are dark or red (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc.) have natural dyes in them that stain the teeth. Drink mixes, candies, food coloring and any other type of dye will get into tiny cracks in your teeth, making them more yellow or gray.


A dental professional holding a dental model that shows all the layers of the teeth.

Protection for Your Teeth

The best way to protect your teeth is to keep up on a great oral hygiene routine. That means you should be brushing at least twice a day (if not after every meal), for 2 minutes at a time, using fluoride toothpaste. Floss every single day, making sure you get up in the gum line and that you scrape your teeth as you move along them. See the dentist at least twice a year for comprehensive exams and dental cleanings to remove stuck-on tartar and other substances.


If you are doing all the right things with your teeth, but you need a change, try cosmetic dentistry like teeth whitening or porcelain veneers. Teeth whitening is a simple, yet incredible confidence-booster. Patients can get a professional treatment in-office in just one appointment, or they can opt for an at-home treatment with their own trays that can be done in their spare time. Porcelain veneers is a cosmetic dentistry option that consists of custom-made tooth shells for the front of your teeth that are perfectly straight, white and made for you. This can create a beautiful smile for many years. For specific questions about your tooth enamel or our cosmetic dentistry services, call Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies at (970) 223-8425!