Tooth erosion is the progressive and irreversible wearing of the teeth due to the softening of the enamel (that is not caused by bacteria). It can permanently change the size and shape of the teeth, and in worst cases, can lead to total tooth destruction.
The enamel is the hard, outer coat that protects our teeth. As the enamel erodes, the dentine underneath is exposed and this often leads to pain and hypersensitivity when chewing, eating or drinking hot or cold drinks.
What are the signs and causes of tooth erosion?
The most significant cause of tooth erosion is regular and excessive consumption food and drinks that are acidic. Other factors include acid reflux disease, teeth grinding, overzealous tooth brushing and even airborne industrial acids (particularly in battery, galvanizing and fertilizer plants or factories).
Aside from sensitivity, common signs and symptoms include dark or yellow discoloration of the teeth (due to exposed dentine), change in the way fillings fit and chipping or indentations on the teeth.
Acidic food and drinks that may cause tooth erosion
- carbonated drinks and sports drinks even if they’re sugar-free
- acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits
- dried fruits, including raisins, that adhere to the teeth
- citrus flavored beverages such as lemon, lime and orange juices
- sour gums and candies
Image source: ADA patient education brochure Tooth Erosion: The Harmful Effects of Acid – W301*
How can you prevent tooth erosion caused by food and drinks?
- Avoid acidic beverages.If you do, avoid swishing acidic drinks between your teethor holding the liquid in your mouth.
- Use a straw.If you drink acidic beverages, use a straw instead of sipping over long periods of time.
- Wash down with water.Drink water after having acidic drinks, candies, or foods. Rinse your mouth with water if possible.
- Chew sugar-free chewing gum. Saliva helps buffer acids; chewing sugar-free gum may help prevent erosion by promoting saliva flow.
- Wait before brushing. Do not brush your teeth immediately after eating or drinking acidic drinks or snacks. Wait for at least half an hour before brushing.
- Brush your teeth. Brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste using a soft-bristled toothbrush.
How can dental erosion be treated?
Tooth erosion is irreversible, but your dentist will help you prevent it from getting any worse. If necessary, your dentist may recommend a simple treatment to protect your enamel and dentine.