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Dental Erosion

Monday, February 16, 2015 : Catherine-Anne Walsh

What is EROSION and what is it caused by:

 

What is tooth enamel?

Enamel is the thin outer covering of the tooth. This tough shell is the hardest tissue in the human body. Enamel covers the crown which is the part of the tooth that's visible outside of the gums.

Because enamel is translucent, you can see light through it. But the main portion of the tooth, the dentin, is the part that's responsible for your tooth color -- whether white, off white, grey, or yellowish.

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Sometimes coffee, tea, cola, red wine, fruit juices, and cigarettes stain the enamel on your teeth. Regular visits to your dentist for routine cleaning and polishing can help remove most surface stains and make sure your teeth stay healthy.

 

Continue reading below...

What does tooth enamel do?

Enamel helps protect your teeth from daily use such as chewing, biting, crunching, and grinding. Although enamel is a hard protector of teeth, it can chip and crack. Enamel also insulates the teeth from potentially painful temperatures and chemicals.

Unlike a broken bone that can be repaired by the body, once a tooth chips or breaks, the damage is done forever. Because enamel has no living cells, the body cannot repair chipped or cracked enamel.

 

What causes enamel erosion?

Tooth erosion happens when acids wear away the enamel on teeth. Enamel erosion can be caused by the following:

  • Excessive soft drink consumption (high levels of phosphoric and citric acids)
  • Fruit drinks (some acids in fruit drinks are more erosive than battery acid)
  • Dry mouth or low salivary flow (xerostomia)
  • Diet (high in sugar and starches)
  • Acid reflux disease (GERD)
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Medications (aspirin, antihistamines)
  • Genetics (inherited conditions)
  • Environmental factors (friction, wear and tear, stress, and corrosion)

What are the environmental causes of tooth surface erosion?

Friction, wear and tear, stress, and corrosion (or any combination of these actions) can cause erosion of the tooth surface. More clinical terms used to describe these mechanisms include:

  • Attrition. This is natural tooth-to-tooth friction that happens when you clench or grind your teeth such as with bruxism, which often occurs involuntary during sleep.
  • Abrasion. This is physical wear and tear of the tooth surface that happens with brushing teeth too hard, improper flossing, biting on hard objects (such as fingernails, bottle caps, or pens), or chewing tobacco.
  • Abfraction. This occurs from stress fractures in the tooth such as cracks from flexing or bending of the tooth.
  • Corrosion. This occurs chemically when acidic content hits the tooth surface such as with certain medications like aspirin or vitamin C tablets, highly acidic foods, GERD, and frequent vomiting from bulimia or alcoholism.

How Can You Protect Your Enamel?

Good dental care at home and the dentist’s office is the best way to keep your mouth healthy. Make it a point to:

  1. Cut down on acidic drinks and foods, like sodas and citrus fruits and juices. When you do have something with acid, have it at mealtimes to make it easier on your enamel.  You can also switch to products like low-acid orange juice.
  2. Rinse your mouth with water right after you eat or drink something acidic. 
  3. Use a straw for sodas and fruit juices so they bypass the teeth. Don’t swish them around in your mouth.
  4. Finish a meal with a glass of milk or a piece of cheese to cancel out acids.
  5. Chew sugar-free gum with xylitol, which lowers the amount of acid in your mouth. Gum also helps you make more saliva, which strengthens your teeth with key minerals.
  6. Drink more water during the day if you have dry mouth.
  7. Use a soft toothbrush, and try not to brush too hard.
  8. Wait at least an hour to brush after you've had acidic foods or drinks. They soften the enamel and make it more prone to damage from your toothbrush.
  9. Use fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash. Your dentist can tell you which products can protect your teeth and make them less sensitive.
  10. Get treatment for conditions like bulimia, alcoholism, or GERD.

 

Can Damaged Tooth Enamel Be Repaired?

 

If you’ve lost some enamel, there are ways to fix it. The best approach depends on your problem.

Tooth bonding can protect a damaged tooth and cover teeth that are worn down, chipped, or discolored.

If you’ve lost a lot of that outer shell, your dentist may cover the tooth with a crown to protect it from further

damage.

 

By  Nadia Dardashti

 



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Dr Catherine-Anne Walsh
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