Tooth erosion refers to the gradual loss of the outer layers of the tooth, enamel and dentine.
What is Tooth Erosion?
Tooth erosion refers to the gradual loss of the outer layers of the tooth, enamel and dentine. Enamel is the hardest and most protective substance in the human body, serving as a shield against dental decay and sensitivity. When the enamel becomes eroded, the underlying dentin layer becomes exposed, accelerating the erosion and increasing the risk of serious damage.
Symptoms of Tooth Erosion
Tooth erosion can lead to several noticeable symptoms. Tooth sensitivity is a common sign, particularly when consuming cold, or sweet foods and beverages. As the enamel wears away, the dentin layer, which contains tiny tubules connecting to the tooth nerves, becomes exposed. This can cause discomfort or pain when exposed to temperature or pressure changes.
Visible signs of tooth erosion include tooth discolouration or translucency. As the enamel thins, the natural colour of the underlying dentin becomes more prominent, resulting in a yellowish appearance. Teeth may also appear more transparent near the edges.
Tooth surfaces may become rough or pitted due to the loss of enamel. As enamel erodes, teeth may chip or crack more easily. In advanced cases, the edges of the teeth may appear jagged or irregular.
What is the most common cause of Enamel Erosion?
The primary cause of enamel erosion is exposure to acid. Acidic substances can erode the enamel over time, gradually weakening and thinning its protective layer. The most common sources of acid are:
- Acidic Foods and Beverages: Frequent consumption of acidic foods and beverages, such as citrus fruits, sodas, sports drinks, alcoholic beverages and fruit juices, exposes the teeth to acids that can wear away the enamel.
- Acid Reflux: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or frequent acid reflux can bring stomach acids into the mouth, leading to enamel erosion.
- Bulimia or eating disorders: Frequent vomiting, as seen in bulimia or certain eating disorders, exposes the teeth to stomach acids, causing enamel erosion.
- Medications: Some medications, particularly those high in acids or with acidic components, can contribute to enamel erosion. Examples include certain vitamin C supplements or chewable aspirin.
- Dry Mouth: Insufficient saliva flow, often caused by medical conditions or medications, can lead to dry mouth. Saliva helps neutralize acids in the mouth, so reduced saliva flow can increase the risk of enamel erosion.
How do you prevent Enamel Erosion?
Prevention is crucial in protecting enamel from erosion. Here are some preventive measures to consider:
- Limit Acidic Foods and Beverages: Reduce the consumption of acidic foods and drinks. If consumed, it is advisable to rinse the mouth with water after ward and wait for at least 30 minutes before brushing to avoid brushing immediately after acid exposure.
- Use a Straw: When consuming acidic beverages, using a straw can help minimize direct contact with the teeth.
- Maintain Good Oral Hygiene: Brush your teeth gently twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. However, don’t brush your dentist immediately after eating. Floss daily to remove plaque and bacteria from between the teeth and along the gumline.
- Drink Water and Chew Sugar-Free Gum: Drinking water can help rinse the mouth and neutralize acids. Chewing sugar-free gum stimulates saliva flow, aiding in neutralizing acids and remineralizing the teeth.
- Visit your Dentist Regularly: Regular dental check-ups allow your dentist to monitor the condition of your enamel and address any concerns or early signs of erosion. They can provide professional advice on oral hygiene practices, recommend fluoride treatments, or suggest dental sealants to protect vulnerable teeth.
How do you treat Tooth Erosion?
If detected early enough, enamel erosion can be restored by placing small composite bonded to the rest of the tooth, effectively replacing the lost enamel. In more severe cases, patient may consider veneers, overlays or even crowns, as a restorative approach to replace the lost tooth substances.
In conclusion, enamel erosion involves the gradual loss of the protective outer layer of the tooth. Acidic substances, including certain foods, drinks, and medical conditions, contribute to enamel erosion. Preventive measures, such as limiting acid exposure, practicing good oral hygiene, and seeking regular dental care, are vital in safeguarding the enamel and maintaining optimal oral health.
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