The Truth About Tooth Erosion
Cavities shouldn’t be your only concern when protecting your teeth. One of the greatest threats to your long-term dental health is tooth erosion, a form of permanent damage that happens when the enamel of your tooth is softened and worn away by the acid in food and drinks.
Over time, enamel loss causes tooth sensitivity and discoloration. It also makes your teeth much more vulnerable to decay. Even healthy teeth can be at risk of acid erosion and, once lost, enamel can’t be restored.
Here’s everything your family dentist wants you to know about what causes tooth erosion and what you can do to protect your teeth against enamel loss.
What Is Tooth Enamel?
Your teeth are made up of four layers:
- The enamel, the hard, outer layer of your teeth that you can see.
- The dentin, the softer middle layer below the enamel.
- The pulp, the living tissue at the center of the teeth and the most sensitive part.
- The cementum, the layer between the gums and the roots of the teeth that anchors the teeth to the jawbone.
Tooth enamel is the hardest mineral substance in your entire body and stronger than your bones — but that doesn’t mean it’s invulnerable. Enamel is just a couple of millimeters thick and, once damaged, will not grow back. The most common type of damage to the enamel is acid erosion which happens when acids in food and drinks eat away at this mineral layer of your teeth.
What Causes Tooth Erosion?
The most common cause of enamel loss is acid exposure. Acids slowly eat away at the mineral substance of your teeth and strip them of their primary defense against cavities and decay.
Saliva helps keep your teeth strong by coating teeth in calcium and other minerals while diluting corrosive acids. However, too much acid can overwhelm this defense mechanism.
While most acid in the mouth comes from food and drink, there are many factors that can increase acid production that damages enamel such as:
- Acid reflux
- Chronic dry mouth
- Acidic medication like aspirin
- Low saliva production
- Bruxism or teeth grinding
Researchers are still learning more about other factors that contribute to acid production and enamel loss. For example, when teeth become very worn or you experience a lot of stress, the acid production in your mouth may increase.
How to Guard Against Enamel Loss
Dental erosion only gets worse with time. The best thing you can do for your long-term dental health is taking steps today to protect your teeth against enamel loss. Your dentist in Scottsdale can help you better understand your risk of acid erosion and recommend solutions to protect your teeth. This may include changing your diet or even changing your oral care regimen.
The following tips from your family dentist can help you guard against acid erosion.
- Cut sugary or acidic drinks from your diet. Soda and fruit juice accelerate enamel loss. According to some research, regular soda consumption — even diet soda — is worse for your teeth than drug abuse. If you do drink soda, rinse your mouth with water afterward and use a straw.
- Reduce snacking. Eating frequently throughout the day contributes to acid production in your mouth. Eliminate a snack each day to reduce acid production.
- Rinse after eating. Gently rinse your mouth with mouthwash or water after eating and wait an hour before brushing.
- Don’t brush your teeth after acidic food or drink. This actually increases the damage as your enamel is softer after acid exposure and brushing will spread the acid.
- Chew sugarless gum. Sugarless gum helps remove acid from your mouth. Gum with xylitol can also disrupt decay-causing bacteria in your mouth.
- Eat more dairy. Dairy products like cheese and milk support healthy enamel and create a film over your teeth to protect the enamel against acid.
- Seek treatment for bruxism and dry mouth. If you have oral health concerns like teeth grinding or chronic dry mouth, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your favorite dentist in Scottsdale for treatment.
- Get regular checkups. Stay on top of regular cleanings and checkups to learn ways to protect your teeth. Checkups also help spot and treat erosion and other concerns early.
Symptoms of Tooth Erosion
You may already have some degree of acid erosion on your teeth. By the age of 13, more than one-third of children in the U.S. have acid erosion, and adults don’t fare better. The good news is there are strategies to prevent further enamel loss once you recognize the problem.
The best way to find out if you already have enamel loss is by visiting a low-cost dentist for regular appointments. You can also watch for common signs of acid erosion.
One of the leading side effects of acid erosion is tooth sensitivity. This happens when the protective enamel coating of the teeth is worn away. At first, you may notice your teeth hurting when you eat or drink hot or cold foods and beverages or when you brush your teeth. In the later stages of enamel loss, your teeth may become very painfully sensitive.
As the enamel on your teeth wears away, your teeth may appear discolored or yellow. This is actually because you are seeing the yellow layer of dentin beneath the enamel.
Smooth, shiny spots on your teeth are an indication that your teeth are losing minerals
When the protective enamel begins to wear down, your teeth become more vulnerable to tooth decay.
Transparent or Dull Teeth
Your teeth become thinner as your enamel wears down. This can make your teeth look transparent or even dull as they lose their shine and thickness.
Worn enamel can create rough edges on your teeth which increases the risk of cracks or chips.
Treatment Options for Enamel Loss
While lost tooth enamel can’t be restored, cosmetic dentistry does offer solutions to help treat acid eroded teeth to stop sensitivity, improve the appearance of your teeth, and reduce the risk of further damage.
One of the most common solutions for mild enamel erosion is dental bonding. This affordable treatment involves applying a tooth-colored material similar to enamel to the surface of your tooth which is molded and polished.
When a tooth is seriously damaged by lost enamel, the best solution may be a dental crown. This involves covering all of the tooth with a cap or cover which restores the tooth’s function, shape, and size while strengthening the tooth.
Concerned about the effects of acid erosion? Schedule an appointment with your family dentist at Trinity Dental Care to learn more about what you can do to protect your teeth from the effects of enamel loss.