Call Brit Phillips DDS
Categories Menu

Posted on Feb 23, 2015 in Tooth Enamel Erosion

What Causes Tooth Enamel Erosion

tooth-enamel

Why is tooth enamel important?

Enamel helps protect your teeth from daily use such as chewing, biting, crunching, and grinding. Although enamel is a hard protector of teeth, it can chip and crack. Enamel also insulates the teeth from potentially painful temperatures and chemicals.

Unlike a broken bone that can be repaired by the body, once a tooth chips or breaks, the damage is done forever. Because enamel has no living cells, the body cannot repair chipped or cracked enamel.

What causes tooth enamel erosion?

Tooth erosion happens when acids wear away the enamel on teeth. Enamel erosion can be caused by the following:

  • Excessive soft drink consumption (high levels of phosphoric and citric acids)
  • Fruit drinks (some acids in fruit drinks are more erosive than battery acid)
  • Fruit drinks (some acids in fruit drinks are more erosive than battery acid)
  • Dry mouth or low salivary flow
  • Diet high in sugar and starches
  • Acid reflux disease
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Medications (e.g. aspirin, antihistamines)
  • Genetics (inherited conditions)
  • Environmental factors (friction, wear and tear, stress, and corrosion)

 

What are the environmental causes of tooth surface erosion?

Friction, wear and tear, stress, and corrosion (or any combination of these actions) can cause erosion of the tooth surface. More clinical terms used to describe these mechanisms include:

  • Attrition. This is natural tooth-to-tooth friction that happens when you clench or grind your teeth such as with bruxism, which often occurs involuntary during sleep.
  • Abrasion. This is physical wear and tear of the tooth surface that happens with brushing teeth too hard, improper flossing, biting on hard objects (such as fingernails, bottle caps, or pens), or chewing tobacco.
  • Abfraction. This occurs from stress fractures in the tooth such as cracks from flexing or bending of the tooth.
  • Corrosion. This occurs chemically when acidic content hits the tooth surface such as with certain medications like aspirin or vitamin C tablets, highly acidic foods, GERD, and frequent vomiting from bulimia or alcoholism.

 

What are the signs of enamel erosion?

The signs of enamel erosion can vary, depending on the stage. Some signs may include:

  • Sensitivity. Certain foods (sweets) and temperatures of foods (hot or cold) may cause a twinge of pain in the early stage of enamel erosion.
  • Discoloration. As the enamel erodes and more dentin is exposed, the teeth may appear yellow.
  • Cracks and chips. The edges of teeth become more rough, irregular, and jagged as enamel erodes.
  • Severe, painful sensitivity. In later stages of enamel erosion, teeth become extremely sensitive to temperatures and sweets. You may feel a painful jolt that takes your breath away.
  • Cupping. Indentations appear on the surface of the teeth.

 

How do you prevent enamel loss?

To help prevent enamel loss and keep teeth healthy, try these tips:

  • Brush and floss your teeth daily.
  • Rinse your mouth immediately with clear water after eating acidic foods or drinking acidic drinks.
    Use a straw when you drink acidic drinks. The straw pushes the liquid to the back of your mouth, avoiding your teeth.
  • Chew gum – it helps boosts saliva production up to 10 times the normal flow. Saliva helps strengthen teeth with important minerals. Be sure to select sugar-free gum with xylitol, which is shown to reduce acids in beverages and foods. Drink more water throughout the day if you have low saliva volume or dry mouth.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride strengthens teeth, so make sure fluoride is listed as an ingredient in your toothpaste.

For more information on what causes tooth enamel erosion and prevention, contact your dentist in Fort Worth Brit Phillips DDS today! Dr. Phillips can recommend a daily fluoride mouthwash if you have a history of cavities or provide sealants which may be helpful in preventing enamel erosion and tooth decay.