Tooth erosion, or tooth wear, is the loss of the surrounding tooth structure. This loss occurs when the enamel (the hard part of your teeth) is worn away by acid. Over time, this erosion can leave your teeth sensitive, cracked, and discolored.
What causes tooth erosion?
Acid is the main cause of tooth erosion. Plain and simple.
Drinks that contain carbonic acid (aka “carbonated drinks”) such as energy drinks, sports drinks, and pure fruit juice, can cause tooth erosion, especially when consumed in large amounts.
In addition, certain medical conditions, including acid reflux and bulimia, also can cause tooth erosion by increasing the levels of stomach acids in the mouth.
What are the signs and symptoms of tooth erosion?
- Sensitivity –
- Since protective enamel is wearing away, you may feel a sharp pain when you consume hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks. The more enamel that is worn, the more sensitive your teeth can become.
- Discoloration –
- As the enamel wears away and the dentin layer (inner layer) of your tooth becomes exposed, teeth appear more yellow in color.
- Rounded teeth –
- Your teeth may have a rounded or “sand-blasted” look.
- Transparency –
- Your front teeth may appear slightly transparent, especially near the biting edges.
- Cracks –
- Small cracks and rough areas may appear at the edges of your teeth.
- Cupping –
- Small dents may appear on the chewing surfaces of your teeth, and fillings might appear to be rising up out of the teeth.
What can I do to prevent tooth erosion?
Most importantly: watch what you’re eating and drinking.
- Cut down on your consumption of carbonated beverages, sports and energy drinks, and pure fruit juice.
- Drink acidic drinks quickly and with a straw. This helps prevent acid from coming in contact with your teeth. Also, don’t swish these liquids around or hold them in your mouth for long periods of time.
- After consuming acidic drinks, rinse your mouth with water to neutralize the acids and wait at least one hour before brushing your teeth. Often people will have breakfast drinks such as coffee or orange juice and brush immediately after. DON’T DO THIS! Doing so will wear away your weakened enamel. Give it time for the pH in your mouth to neutralize before brushing your teeth.
- Chew sugar-free gum, which helps your mouth produce more saliva to re-mineralize your teeth.
- Brush with a soft toothbrush and be sure your toothpaste contains a high amount of fluoride.
- Don’t let your child consume highly acidic drinks or fruit juices in his or her sippy cup or bottle.
How can I deal with the sensitivity caused by tooth erosion?
You can reduce sensitivity by receiving fluoride treatments at your dental office and using specially formulated toothpaste or over-the-counter enamel-building products.
Tooth erosion impacts everyone in different ways. Make sure you speak with Dr. Stephan about your oral hygiene and find out what else you can do to protect yourself from tooth erosion.