Exploring the Causes of Tooth Erosion

May 17, 2018 @ 11:25 AM — by Neil L. Starr, DDS
Tagged with: Restorative Dentistry

Digital image of a tooth and a cross sectionThe enamel, the outermost layer of a tooth, is the hardest substance found in the human body. It is incredibly effective at protecting your smile. When the enamel erodes, however, your teeth are far more susceptible to decay and damage.

At our Washington, D.C. practice, Dr. Neil L. Starr explores common causes of tooth erosion and explains how to prevent and treat serious dental conditions with restorative dentistry procedures.

Environmental Causes of Tooth Erosion

There can be several types of tooth erosion, and many different reasons why it can occur. For example, everyday wear and tear, friction, and stress can all lead to the wearing down of the tooth surface.

In clinical terms, various causes of tooth erosion include:

  • Attrition: This is characterized by tooth-to-tooth friction, and often occurs when individuals suffer from bruxism, or teeth grinding.
  • Abrasion: The clinical term for physical wear and tear, abrasion happens from brushing too aggressively or with a hard-bristled toothbrush.
  • Abfraction: Stress fractures can appear in the tooth surface as a result of abnormal bending or flexing of the tooth.
  • Corrosion: Highly acidic foods and beverages, GERD, and certain medications, among other things, can cause the enamel to corrode.

Specific Causes of Tooth Erosion

Now that we have explored the primary clinical terms, we will discuss a few everyday conditions and habits that can contribute to tooth erosion. These can include:

  • Frequent consumption of fruit drinks and soft drinks
  • Xerostomia, or chronic dry mouth
  • Acid reflux disease
  • A diet that is high in starches and sugars
  • Certain medications, such as antihistamines and aspirin
  • Inherited medical or skeletal conditions
  • Teeth grinding or clenching
  • Frequent vomiting brought on by bulimia or excessive alcoholism

Symptoms of Tooth Erosion

In some cases, signs of erosion will be apparent. However, some symptoms may go on unnoticed. Common warning signs include:

  • Tooth sensitivity: In the early stages of tooth erosion, patients may notice slight sensitivity to heat, cold, and sweets. As the condition worsens, these symptoms can progress.
  • Tooth discoloration: Dentin, the layer underneath the enamel, is yellow in color. As the enamel wears away and more dentin is exposed, the teeth may appear more discolored.
  • Cracks, chips, or fractures: As the enamel erodes, the teeth can become weaker. As a result, you may notice more hairline fractures, cracks, or chips around the edges.
  • Cupping: If tooth erosion occurs, it can often lead to craters or indentation on the chewing surfaces. This is referred to as cupping.

Preventing Tooth Erosion

The best way to prevent tooth erosion from occurring is to attend routine dental visits. During these appointments, Dr. Starr can assess your teeth and your bite to make sure all elements of your smile are functioning properly.

 If you clench or grind your teeth, we will recommend a custom night guard to protect your teeth from damage.

Treating Tooth Erosion

If you have already sustained tooth erosion or related dental damage, Dr. Starr will recommend appropriate restorative treatments to address the issue. This could include bonding, dental crowns, or other treatments. However, it is important to also invest in a custom oral appliance to protect your smile once it is restored.

Contact Us for More Information

If you are experiencing symptoms of tooth erosion, schedule a consultation at our practice to explore your treatment options. Contact us online anytime or give us a call at (202) 293-7177.

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