Teeth are covered with a layer of enamel – a thin but hard tissue that protects the underlying bone. When you chew and bite, enamel keeps the tooth from wearing down and protects the more sensitive bone and pulp below from damage. It also helps insulate teeth from hot or cold temperatures and chemicals that may cause pain.
Enamel is not impervious to damage and can start to weaken if not property cared for. This process is called tooth erosion. It is a process that is sightly different from tooth decay (cavities) because it is not a result of bacteria. Erosion can also be a serious dental issue, as the more your teeth break down, the more challenges you are likely to have in the future with your oral health.
Signs of Tooth Erosion
In the early stages, it’s not uncommon to miss signs of tooth erosion. But over time, these signs become more prevalent. Some of the signs of tooth erosion include:
- Yellowing of teeth.
- Unexplained toothaches
- Sensitivity to hot and cold foods/beverages.
- Increased frequency of cavities.
- Teeth that crack or chip.
It is best to contact Dental Concepts and Orthopedics before these become a problem, but if you notice any signs of erosion, it’s important to call us right away.
What Causes Tooth Erosion?
Wear to the enamel on teeth is a result of both genetic factors and lifestyle. Some people are born with genes that make it possible for enamel to weaken faster. Although genetics is the least preventable form of erosion, proper dental care and hygiene can reduce the risk of severe challenges. That is why knowing the lifestyle factors that can lead to tooth erosion are especially important. These include:
- Acids – Predominantly found in high sugar food and drinks, acids will corrode the enamel. Medications like aspirin and Vitamin C are acidic as well. Acid is also an issue due to frequent vomiting, as caused by alcoholism or bulimia, and for those with acid reflux where stomach acid regularly enters the mouth.
- Dry Mouth – Saliva naturally washes away acids and contains calcium that helps fortify enamel. For those with lower saliva production, the acid is able to stay on the tooth. Treatments for dry mouth and consumption of non acidic water or milk can help negate these effects.
- Abrasion – Biting on hard items like bottle caps and ice physically wears down the enamel. Too much pressure during brushing and chewing tobacco can also cause tooth erosion.
- Friction – Repeatedly biting or clenching your teeth causes the teeth to rub and thins the enamel. Bruxism, or grinding your teeth during sleep, is a leading cause of friction that can speed the erosion of enamel.
Much of the acid that comes into contact with teeth is through foods and drinks, making food the main cause of tooth erosion. Citrus and foods flavored with citrus are some of the most acidic, including sour candies. Carbonated sodas and fruit drinks, both of which are also high in sugar, are especially prone to erode enamel.
While other factors are harder to manage, limiting your intake of acidic drinks and foods is an effective way to reduce the risk of tooth erosion. Removing candies and sodas from your diet, or drinking sodas through a straw keeps the acid away from your teeth. Drinking water and brushing your teeth regularly, especially after eating acidic foods, will help remove lingering acids.
How We Prevent and Treat Tooth Erosion
Although enamel will not grow back, tooth erosion happens slowly. Regular visits to your dentist ensures that it is detected early so that you can prevent further harm.
At Dental Concepts and Orthodontics, we work to determine what is causing tooth erosion, as lifestyle changes are a primary factor in preventing further enamel damage. We also have several treatments available to help protect against future challenges.
For example, tooth bonding – or the process of placing a resin over damaged enamel – can also be used to correct discoloration and help protect the tooth where the enamel is worn away. In more extreme cases, a veneer or crown is applied to stop decay. These are all different treatment options available to those that have signs of erosion.
If you have noticed sensitivity, rough edges, yellowing, or other dental challenges, it could be a sign of tooth erosion. Contact us today to learn more, or to schedule a time to meet with our dentists simply call 831-443-3633.