Dental Q&A: What is tooth erosion?

By June 8, 2015 August 28th, 2015 Oral Health, tooth decay, tooth erosion

Today’s dental question and answer is about tooth erosion. It is a common situation in America that is exacerbated by high sugar diets, lifestyle choices and time. Fortunately, it’s also a very treatable condition that has no long lasting effects if caught and addressed early enough.

Tooth, acid or dental erosion is the gradual reduction of tooth enamel caused by acids within our bodies and our diet. When that protective enamel is too thin or too worn the dentin underneath is exposed which can cause discomfort and discoloration.

What is tooth enamel?

Tooth enamel is a thin, hard coating that protects the teeth. It is the hardest tissue in the human body, designed to protect our teeth from acid and daily use. The layer is thin and translucent, allowing the white dentin to show through that gives your teeth their white color.

Even though tooth enamel is tough, it is still susceptible to wear, chips, cracks and acid.

Where does this acid come from?

The acids that cause tooth erosion come from acidic foods and your stomach. When you eat certain foods acid is left behind which can soften the enamel and remove minerals from it. Saliva automatically lowers the pH level of the mouth and helps remineralize the teeth.

Acid can also come from the gut. If you suffer from acid reflux, stomach acids make their way into the mouth which can also attack tooth enamel.

Is it just acid that causes tooth erosion?

No it isn’t just acid. Daily use and abrasion can contribute towards dental erosion. As can bruxism or grinding the teeth. If you bite something hard, this can cause abfraction, which are small fractures within the enamel. Certain medications can also weaken or erode tooth enamel.

How will I know my teeth are eroding?

There are several symptoms of dental erosion. They include sensitive teeth, discoloration, shiny teeth, cracked or chipped teeth and indentations on the tooth. If you begin suffering from discomfort in the teeth, they become sensitive to heat or cold, they become shiner for no reason or you crack or chip a tooth, it’s important to visit us here at Aesthetic Family Dentistry as soon as possible.

What can be done to treat tooth erosion?

To treat tooth erosion, we first find out what’s causing it. If the cause is dietary, we can advise on low acid alternatives to foods and drinks. If acid reflux is the cause, we can make a referral to a physician. If you suffer from bruxism or tooth grinding, we can help directly with that. We can also address chips, cracks and indentations.

If we catch dental erosion early enough, we can use dental bonding to protect the area from further damage. If the erosion is further advanced, we may suggest a crown or other dental procedure to protect the tooth. Much depends on the individual and how serious the issue is. It’s something we would discuss at the consultation.

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