Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have made important findings regarding the formation of tooth enamel and the related oral health complications for children.

The American researchers presented their findings, earlier this year, at the 2019 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The presenter of those findings, Dr. W. Thomas Boyce, explained that exfoliated teeth (i.e. primary teeth in children that have fallen out) contained a permanent record of environmental stress levels up until their initial eruption. Additionally, these stresses impacted on the formation of enamel of children’s teeth during development.

Tooth enamel formation & degeneration

The formation and development of tooth enamel builds up layer by layer on teeth, until they are ready to erupt from the gums. It is the hardest tissue in the human body, and is extremely wear resistant. It has a hardness that is comparable to window glass, and it needs to be because enamel protects dentin – the tooth’s softer inner layer which makes up the bulk of a tooth’s structure. Dentin is still harder than human bone, but extremely vulnerable once exposed.


However, tooth enamel has one major flaw. It cannot regenerate or self repair. Once it’s gone, it’s gone! Any enamel loss is irreversible. There are a number of reasons why we lose our tooth enamel, including wear, an acidic diet, poor oral care & hygiene, and tooth decay.

How stress hinders enamel formation

According to Dr. Boyce, the more a child is exposed to chronic stress, the thinner and less dense each individual layer of enamel becomes. Stress can come from problems at school, family relationships, mental and/or physical abuse, lack of sleep and a noisy environment.

When children (and adults) experience chronic stress, a lot more of the stress hormone, cortisol, is produced in their bodies. And it is a constant high concentration of cortisol in the blood and saliva that affects the formation of each new layer of enamel during oral development.

The oral health complications of thin tooth enamel

Since loss of tooth enamel during one’s lifetime is inevitable, it pays to be equipped with teeth that have a thick, healthy layer of enamel from an early age. This ensures that as an adult, you have hardier and more durable teeth that can better withstand the “abuse” from a lifetime of use and/or neglect.

If you are a parent, it is important to provide a stress-free environment for your child, along with a healthy diet, good oral care and regular dental checkups, to ensure their oral health – now and in the future.