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The hard, outer layer that protects your teeth against tooth decay is called tooth enamel. And even though tooth enamel is widely considered the hardest mineral substance in the human body — even tougher than bone — it still has some vulnerability, even to some unexpected attackers.

When a tooth is frequently exposed to the acid in sugary drinks and starches, the enamel on your teeth is weakened by losing minerals during these acidic attacks, resulting in tooth decay and cavities.

Many conscientious tooth lovers quickly brush their teeth after enjoying their sweetened drinks. But surprisingly, brushing your teeth afterward actually adds to the breakdown of your tooth enamel, allowing the acids to penetrate deeper!

The acid exposure softens your enamel for a short time, making it easier to damage your teeth with the toothbrush. Therefore, brush your teeth before enjoying your sweetened drink, because the fluoride in the toothpaste will add another layer to stave off the acidic assault.

It may sound too simple to be true, but if you drink with a straw, your tooth enamel gets significantly less exposure to whatever beverage you’re drinking.

The quantity and frequency of acid exposure are only two concerns when consuming sweet drinks. A third problem is how long your teeth are subjected to an acidic onslaught. So, follow your sweet drink with a glass of water or by simply rinsing your mouth.

Your teeth and their protective enamel break up food very well, but they can easily get damaged if you chew on non-food items, such as ice, pens and pencils, clothing tags, fingernails and all the other things moms tell their kids to keep out of their mouths. Save your teeth for chewing things that can nourish your body.

Along the lines of only chewing food, you should avoid grinding your teeth together, as well. If you clench your teeth when you’re feeling stressed, you can fracture your enamel, damage your jaws and even wreak havoc on your tooth alignment.

The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth twice a day for a healthy mouth and smile. But it’s important to use a soft-bristled toothbrush, and it’s imperative that you brush gently.