Not all tooth damage results from trauma or decay. Dental abfractions are little notches that form at the top of the teeth near the gum line. These lesions in the teeth can deepen over time, causing pain and tooth loss if left untreated. Fortunately, Dr. Neil L. Starr offers a variety of different restorative dentistry procedures at our Washington, DC practice to correct and prevent dental damage and dental abfractions.
A Consequence of Bruxism or Misalignment
Bacteria and acid are the usual causes of tooth decay and enamel erosion, eating away the tooth’s outer tissues. Abfractions, however, are most often the result of abnormal and excessive forces placed on the teeth. Under normal pressure, our teeth flex slightly as we chew. Excess forces, like grinding or clenching the teeth (bruxism), cause the teeth to flex more than normal.
Over time, this flexion can lead to damage at the top of the tooth where it meets the gum line. Patients with misaligned teeth are also at risk of developing abfractions. The abnormal and uneven bite can create excess pressure on the teeth in certain areas.
Dental Damage and Dental Abfractions
Dental abfractions are a form of dental damage themselves. If left untreated, however, they can lead to additional dental damage. The damage to the enamel leaves the tooth more vulnerable to tooth decay. Due to the proximity of the abfraction to the tooth root, decay can advance quickly, infecting the root. It could eventually lead to tooth loss.
In addition to decay, abfractions also cause sensitivity. When enamel erosion occurs, the softer and more porous underlying tissues of the teeth are exposed. This allows food, drinks, and bacteria access to the pulp, or center, of the tooth. The pulp contains blood vessels and nerves, which are sensitive to temperature changes and cause tooth pain.
Abfractions are also a cosmetic concern for many patients. Although the notches start small, they grow larger and deeper over time, becoming much more noticeable. The dentin, which is the porous layer beneath the enamel, is yellow in color. Once the enamel is eroded, the teeth will appear yellowed in those notches.
Is There a Treatment for Abfractions?
Fortunately, there are treatment options for dental abfractions. Dr. Starr takes the time to evaluate the root cause of the damage to your teeth. This will allow him to treat the cause and prevent further damage. For misalignment, he may recommend orthodontic treatment. If bruxism is the problem, he may recommend a custom mouth guard to wear at night.
Once he has addressed the underlying cause of damage, he can treat the damaged teeth themselves. Generally, the best treatments for abfractions are either tooth-colored fillings or dental bonding. Both treatments use composite resin to reshape the teeth. Dr. Starr can customize this material so that it matches your surrounding teeth.
Get Stronger, Healthier Teeth Today
If you have noticed slight changes in your teeth near the gum line, don’t wait to schedule an appointment. Dr. Starr can diagnose and treat your abfractions in just one appointment so you can restore your healthy smile.