Look at your smile in the mirror. On the surface, you may have a full set of straight, white, natural-looking teeth. What might be visible, however, is whether your teeth are suffering from dental erosion. Dental erosion is the process when the enamel on your teeth wears away. If that’s the case, it’s time to act. We take a look at what dental erosion is and how it affects the mouth.
What is enamel?
Enamel is the thin outer layer of the tooth. It’s the hardest substance in the entire human body. Enamel’s main job is to cover the crown which is the part of the tooth that’s visible outside of the gums and prevent teeth from decaying. So, when enamel wears away, teeth become vulnerable to damage caused by plaque and bacteria. Unfortunately, enamel doesn’t regenerate once it erodes; which is why it’s so important to guard against dental erosion.
What causes dental erosion?
Dental 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
- Dry mouth or low salivary flow (xerostomia)
- Diet (high in sugar and starches)
- Acid reflux disease
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Medications (aspirin, antihistamines)
- Genetics (inherited conditions)
- Environmental factors (friction, wear and tear, stress, and corrosion)
What are the different types of erosion?
Teeth are subject to two types of erosion: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic erosion results from acids due to conditions such as anorexia or acid reflux. Extrinsic erosion occurs when acids that lower the body’s pH level comes from food and drink choices, such as sugary snacks, carbonated drinks, sodas, fruit juices and wine. Those types of foods and drinks make saliva acidic.
What are the signs of erosion?
The signs of enamel erosion can vary, depending on the stage. Some signs may include:
- Tooth discoloration: Enamel is white. Dentin, the sensitive tissue located below the enamel, is yellow. So, if your teeth develop more of a yellow tinge, it may be due to enamel loss.
- Tooth appearance: Your teeth may appear thinner or smaller than normal. The edges of your teeth become more rough, irregular, and jagged as enamel erodes and you may find indentations appearing on the surface of the teeth which is called cupping.
- Tooth sensitivity: In the later stages of enamel erosion, teeth become extremely sensitive to temperatures and sweets. You may feel a painful jolt that takes your breath away.
Once your dentist diagnoses you with enamel erosion, there are methods you can take to counteract it. First off, take inventory of your diet. Acidic and sugary foods are two main culprits that cause erosion. If the enamel is too far gone, dental procedures such as bonding, crowns or veneers can repair the problem.
How can you prevent enamel loss?
To prevent enamel loss and keep teeth healthy, be sure to brush, floss, and rinse with a fluoride and antiseptic mouthwash daily. See your dentist every six months for regular checkups and cleaning. You can also try the following:
- Eliminate highly acidic foods and drinks from your diet such as carbonated sodas, lemons, and other citrus fruits and juices. 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.
- Monitor snacks. Snacking throughout the day increases the chance of tooth decay. The mouth is acidic for a few hours after eating foods high in sugar and starches. Avoid snacking unless you’re able to rinse your mouth and brush teeth.
- Chew sugar-free gum between meals. Chewing gum 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 the effects of 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.
- Ask your dentist if sealants may be helpful in preventing enamel erosion and tooth decay.
Do you have any questions about dental erosion? Call Westermeier Martin Dental care to schedule an appointment with your dentist 716-508-4547.