What Causes Rough Tooth Enamel?

What Causes Rough Tooth Enamel?

Chelmsford hygienist, Samantha Henly, discusses this relatively common problem.

What happens if you run your tongue along the surface of your teeth? Do you feel a smooth and even surface or one that feels a little rough and ‘grainy’?

If it is the former, then hopefully all is well and the enamel surfaces of your teeth are in good health (although that is not an excuse not to see the dentist!) If you notice that the surface feels rougher though, it is advisable to have this checked out by one of the Blue Sky Dental team.

You might think that it doesn’t really matter if your tooth surface isn’t smooth, but this seemingly trivial thing could be both a warning sign that things are not as they should be and also that you may have already suffered from enamel erosion.


One of the reasons for a rough enamel surface is that you may have tartar building up on it. Tartar is a hardened form of plaque which includes some of the potentially damaging bacteria that live in your mouth. The problem with this is not that it doesn’t feel nice to run your tongue over a rough surface, but that this roughness also helps further bacteria and deposits to attach.

As bacteria collect on your teeth, your risk of gum disease and caries grows as the enamel becomes damaged by the acids that they produce. Once the enamel is compromised, the bacteria and acids can enter the inner part of the tooth where the nerves are located. This may well result in toothache and the need for a filling or eventually a root canal procedure.

On another note, this rough surface also makes it much easier for staining to occur than it would on a smooth surface.

Solution to tartar build up

Hopefully, any build up will have been minimised through a good home cleaning regime bu if tartar has formed, it can only be removed by a scale and polish carried out by a dental hygienist. This is a non invasive procedure that will not only give you a smoother tooth surface but will also greatly reduce the likelihood of decay and gum infections caused by the bacteria.

Worn enamel surface

A more serious cause of a rough tooth surface is where the enamel has already started to erode, leaving tiny holes and pits in the surface of the tooth. Again, teeth in this condition are more likely to stain, but that is the least of the problems this condition can lead to. As the enamel erodes, the teeth will be less well protected and patients are likely to notice an increase in sensitivity when they eat or drink hot or cold products. This can be very painful and spoil the enjoyment of eating and drinking.

In addition to this, a tooth affected in this way is more likely to decay as bacteria enter via the vulnerable tooth surface. Whilst a tooth can be filled, or root canal therapy carried out, it doesn’t make sense to wait until this happens, and it is far better to take preventative measures instead.

Solution to eroded enamel

If it were tooth sensitivity that was the only concern, it might be possible to manage any discomfort by using a sensitivity tooth paste and making sure to allow food and drinks to reach a cooler temperature before eating or drinking them. This could help as a short term work-around, but if you notice that your teeth have become more sensitive, please do have them checked by one of the dentists at our Chelmsford practice.

Once the enamel has started to erode, it is likely to continue doing so, especially if you are not looking after your teeth correctly. Here are two solutions for treating this problem.

Composite bonding

The least invasive method used to protect the teeth when they are affected in this way is to have composite material bonded to the surface of the teeth. This requires the dentist to gradually build up a layer of the composite material directly onto the surface of the tooth. This requires no surgery, however it is less permanent than the alternative and, as it is a porous material, can discolour more easily over time.

Porcelain veneers

In order to fully protect teeth affected by erosion, the most effective way is to replace the damaged enamel with a porcelain alternative in the form of veneers. These serve a similar purpose as composite veneers or bonding but offer a longer lasting and stronger solution. Unlike bonding, porcelain veneers usually require a fine layer of the damaged tooth enamel to be removed to achieve the most natural appearance. Impressions are then taken for a dental laboratory to produce the veneers and you will be provided with temporary ones to protect your teeth in the meantime. These will be removed and replaced with your new veneers when they are returned from the laboratory, usually within a fortnight or so.

A rough tooth surface may seem to be a trivial thing but should not be ignored. If you find that your teeth do feel rough to the tongue, it is time to have them checked out.

To arrange an appointment to see a dentist at Blue Sky Dental, please call our Chelmsford dental clinic on 01245 211070.

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