Tooth erosion is a condition in which acidic foods and beverages damage the enamel of teeth. The erosion is caused by acid removing minerals from the tooth surface faster than the tooth can re-mineralize (replace lost minerals).
Erosion is very damaging to teeth because these areas are not protected by enamel, making it much easier for the acids in food and drink to damage the dentin (the layer below the enamel) and cause permanent damage.
Symptoms of Tooth Erosion
There are typically no warning signs of tooth erosion. People that suffer from it may experience painful or sensitive teeth, however. They may also develop small cavities (holes) in their teeth which usually do not get better with normal dental hygiene. If you notice any of the following symptoms, please consult your dentist for an evaluation:
Tooth pain or soreness
Areas of tooth surface that are not smooth or shiny anymore
Teeth feeling longer than normal
Small cavities (holes) in teeth that usually do not get better with regular brushing and flossing
Tooth enamel that becomes sensitive to hot or cold food or beverages
Developing cavities in the teeth
Delayed dental development in children
Irregularities on X-ray images caused by changes to the structure of your teeth
Spontaneous tooth fractures
Causes of Tooth Erosion
The consumption of acidic foods and beverages is the most common cause of tooth erosion. Acidic drinks include fruit juices, sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, wine, and vinegar, to name a few. Acids can also come from food items such as citrus fruits, tomato sauce, pickled vegetables, or acidic sauces.
People that suffer from bulimia or acid reflux disease are also in great danger of tooth erosion. The reflux causes acidic gastric juice with pH values below 5 to contact the teeth constantly. Other common causes of tooth erosion are:
The use of drugs that cause dry mouth
Overenthusiastic teeth brushing or flossing after acidic food or beverage consumption
Gastrointestinal problems (lack of certain enzymes) such as Celiac disease, chronic pancreatitis, and cystic fibrosis
Lack of fluoride intake
Frequent consumption of sports drinks, energy drinks, or acidic foods/beverages
Spontaneous tooth fractures
Poorly made dental restorations that are directly in contact with the teeth for a long time
The use of mouthwash with a high concentration of alcohol
Genetic predispositions to tooth erosion due to less production of saliva
Lack of fluoride in the saliva
Tooth Erosion Treatments
Since tooth erosion happens below the surface of the enamel, it can only be treated by a dental professional. Your dentist will first perform an x-ray examination to determine how much damage your teeth have suffered. If you suffer from symptoms like pain or sensitivity, your dentist may prescribe a special mouthwash for temporary relief. They might also provide a fluoride treatment to remineralize your teeth.
In severe cases, your dentist may recommend having small cavities filled or have white fillings placed over the tooth to protect it from any further damage. If so, they will take an impression of a dental crown fabricated in a dental lab.
In teeth with teeth whitening, tooth erosion can lead to unsightly staining and discoloration of the enamel. Your dentist might recommend bleaching your teeth before fitting you for a protective crown. They should always inform you about possible side effects after tooth bleaching.
In extreme cases of tooth erosion, a dental crown might be recommended. This will cover the tooth surface and allow you to bite and chew without wearing down your enamel. Your dentist may prescribe a special mouthwash for temporary relief when fixing a dental crown. They might also provide a fluoride treatment to remineralize your teeth.
Tooth Erosion Prevention
The best way to prevent tooth erosion is by not consuming acidic drinks, fruit juices, sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, wine, and vinegar. It would be wise to avoid using mouthwash with high alcohol concentrations. However, if you suffer from dry mouth caused by medications or medical conditions like Sjogren’s syndrome, you can use artificial saliva substitutes.
Wear a mouthguard when playing sports and avoid contact with other players’ mouths or teeth. If you suffer from acid reflux disease, visit your doctor for all the information about medications that could be causing dry mouth. When brushing your teeth, remember to brush gently and not scrub back and forth too hard (and avoid brushing immediately after consuming acidic food or beverages).
If you suffer from tooth erosion, make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. They will examine your teeth and determine the best treatment for you. This could be a mouthwash with fluoride to protect and remineralize your teeth or a crown (if necessary).
The use of dental sealants can greatly help prevent tooth erosion in children. This is because they cover the grooves on the chewing surfaces of back teeth, preventing any food residue from constantly exposing them to acid. They may be painted on the chewing surfaces of permanent teeth or applied to baby molars.
Tooth erosion is a condition that rarely occurs, and it’s generally caused by excessive consumption of acidic food and beverages. If you suffer from tooth enamel erosion, contact your dentist as soon as possible for the best treatment options.