Tooth Enamel Erosion

Tooth enamel is the strongest substance in the human body. Its function is to protect teeth from the daily wear and tear of biting and chewing, temperature extremes and guards against the erosive effects of acids and chemicals.

Causes:

  • Consumption of excessive amounts of soft drinks or fruit drinks. Bacteria thrive on sugar and produce high acid levels that can destroy enamel
  • Eating an abundance of sour foods and candies. Acidic foods can erode tooth enamel.
  • Dry mouth or low saliva volume. Saliva helps prevent decay by neutralizing acids and washing away leftover food debris in your mouth.
  • Acid reflux disease (GERD), or heartburn. Acid reflux brings stomach acids up to the mouth, where acids can erode enamel
  • Bulimia, Alcoholism, or binge drinking in which frequent vomiting exposes teeth to stomach acids.
  • Certain drugs or supplements with high acid content (aspirin, vitamin C) can also erode enamel
  • Friction /wear and tear from brushing teeth too vigorously or grinding teeth, can erode enamel

Symptoms:

  • Sensitive teeth or tooth pain when eating hot, cold or sweet foods and drinks.
  • Rough or irregular edges on the teeth, which can become cracked or chipped when enamel is lost.
  • Smooth, shiny surfaces on the teeth- enamel erosion causes mineral loss on these areas.
  • Yellowing of teeth from thin enamel
  • Cupping (dents in the enamel) that are evident on the biting/chewing surfaces of the teeth
  • When teeth erode, they are more susceptible to cavities and decay.

Protection from tooth erosion:

  • Decrease the amount of acidic drinks and foods, such as carbonated drinks and citrus fruits. If you do drink them, do so at mealtimes to minimize effects on enamel.
  • Switch to modified products, such as low acid orange juice
  • Rinse your mouth with water right after having acidic foods and drinks.
  • Drink sodas and fruit juices with a straw, which eliminates bathing the teeth with an excessive amount of acid.
  • Finish a meal with a glass of milk or piece of cheese to neutralize acids
  • Chew sugar free gum with xylitol, which reduces acids from foods and drinks. This also increases saliva flow, which helps strengthen the teeth by depositing key minerals into the enamel.
  • Drink plenty of water of you have dry moth or decreased saliva flow
  • Use a soft bristle toothbrush and avoid aggressive tooth brushing
  • Wait at least one hour to brush teeth after they have been exposed to acids in foods or drinks. Acid leaves the enamel softened and more prone to tooth erosion if teeth are brushed immediately after. A mouth rinse is a good option if you need to have fresh breath.
  • Use fluoride/tarter control toothpaste to strengthen your teeth and reduce the amount of bacteria.
  • Ask your dental professional about using commercial toothpastes to reduce tooth sensitivity and/or to protect against erosion.
  • Get medical treatment for disorders (bulimia, alcoholism, or GERD) that can produce an acidic oral environment.

There are several ways to repair teeth that are damaged by erosion. The correct approach depends on your particular problem. Tooth bonding (tooth colored filling material) can protect a tooth with enamel erosion and can also improve the appearance of teeth that are worn down, chipped and/or discolored.

Porcelain laminates (thin porcelain facings), can also be used. These are a more expensive alternative, but are a lot longer lasting than bonding and don’t chip or stain. If enamel loss is significant, a cap (crown) may be indicated. In this situation the entire tooth may have to be covered in order to protect it from further damage.

By: Paul M. Banks DDS

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