Most people are familiar with tooth decay but not tooth erosion. Tooth erosion should not be confused with tooth decay which is a type of tooth damage caused by bacterial acidic by-products – however they are similar.
What is tooth erosion and what causes it?
Tooth erosion occurs when you lose tooth structure, namely your tooth enamel, due to chemicals. The chemicals that cause erosion are found in acidic food and drinks, or acid refluxed from your stomach.
If you consume excessive amounts of acidic food and drinks daily, then you have probably already experienced tooth erosion without realising it. For example, soft drinks can contain high amounts of citric and phosphoric acid. Sipping on them as opposed to using a straw can bath your teeth in an acid bath that can wear away your teeth continually.
Other possible causes of tooth erosion include bulimia, GI problems, certain medications and genetics.
How does your dentist measure tooth erosion?
Your dentist measures tooth erosion by comparing the thickness of enamel on each tooth. There are also other signs of tooth erosion that your dentist looks out for, including:
- darker or yellowish discolouration of your teeth indicating the dissolving of enamel,
- sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet foods,
- thin or transparent front teeth tips,
- shape changes to your teeth that can give them a concave appearance,
- a glassy appearance on your tooth surfaces,
- flattened or pitted chewing surfaces of your molars, and
- the impression that your natural tooth structure appears to be sinking around a filling.
How can tooth erosion be prevented and treated?
To prevent erosion, limit the amount of acidic foods and beverages that you consume. When you eat or drink them, do so promptly and try rinsing any residue left in your mouth with water.
As far as dental treatment goes, there’s only so much your dentist can do since enamel loss is irreversible. However, your dentist can restore an eroded tooth to protect the inner tooth structure or dentin. Try using a fluoride or desensitising toothpaste to strengthen your tooth enamel as well.