Tooth Erosion Causes and Prevention
Tooth erosion, the wearing away of enamel, is responsible for a number of dental problems including tooth discoloration, decay, and pain. When it comes to tooth erosion, prevention is key. Fountain Valley cosmetic dentist Andrew G. Mortensen offers these useful tips on preventing tooth erosion.
What Causes Tooth Erosion?
In order to prevent tooth erosion it is important to understand what causes this condition. Essentially, tooth erosion is caused by the wearing away of the tooth enamel through exposure to acids or friction. The tooth enamel is a hard, protective coating on the outer layer of the teeth. Enamel protects the next layer of the tooth, called the dentin, the part of the teeth that gives them their color. The dentin is full of small tubules that reach to the nerve of the teeth. When these tubules are exposed through tooth erosion, the nerves can be irritated by hot or cold foods, and left vulnerable to infection - all resulting in pain.
The specific causes of tooth erosion include:
- Plaque: Plaque is made up of food particles, saliva, bacteria, and acid from bacterial digestion. When plaque is left on the teeth, the acids in the plaque work to dissolve the enamel.
- Highly acidic, sugary, or starchy diets: Exposure to acid is one of the number one causes of tooth erosion. Acid dissolves enamel and leaves the teeth vulnerable to decay. Diets rich in acidic foods and drinks, like soft drinks and citrus, increase your risk for tooth erosion. Diets heavy in sugars and starches are another major culprit for tooth erosion. Sugars and starches increase plaque formation, which erodes the teeth.
- Gastrointestinal problems: Gastrointestinal problems, such as acid reflux, can cause erosion by allowing stomach acids to come in contact with the teeth.
- Vomiting frequently: Like gastrointestinal problems, vomiting brings corrosive stomach acid into contact with the teeth. Frequent vomiting, as with excessive alcohol consumption or bulimia, is very damaging to the teeth.
- Dry mouth: Dry mouth, a condition of low saliva production, increases the risk of tooth erosion since saliva is important to help wash away food and acids from the teeth.
- Friction caused by aggressive tooth brushing: The friction of brushing your teeth too roughly can wear down the enamel.
- Teeth grinding: Teeth grinding is another cause of erosion involving friction. Often, teeth grinding wears away the biting areas of the teeth, leaving the teeth vulnerable to decay.
- Stress fractures: Everyday biting and chewing can create stress fractures in our teeth. These small fractures disrupt the continuity of the enamel and allow bacteria and acids to more easily erode the teeth.
Preventing Tooth Erosion
Preventing tooth erosion is vital to ensuring your oral health. Here are some ways you can decrease your risk of tooth erosion.
- Practice good oral hygiene. In addition to seeing your dentist regularly, brush at least twice a day and floss once a day.
- Avoid food and drinks high in acid, sugar, and starches. Because foods high in acid, sugar, and starches increase the likelihood of erosion, try cutting back or avoiding such foods all together.
- Use a straw when drinking soft drinks. Drinking with a straw helps liquids bypass your teeth.
- Drink water regularly. Water helps wash away food and drink remnants, and it neutralizes acid.
- Use dental products with fluoride. Use toothpaste and mouth wash with fluoride. Fluoride replaces minerals in our teeth, adding strength and reducing tooth erosion.
Treating Tooth Erosion
Tooth erosion should not be left untreated. Once enamel is lost it can only be repaired through dental treatments. For our patients in Fountain Valley, dental crowns and porcelain veneers are viable options for tooth erosion. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Mortensen to see which treatments are best for you.