01 Jul How to tell if you have dental erosion.
Dental erosion may sound ominous but if you know what to look for, it can help you to get the help you need to ensure your ongoing dental health.
Here are a few questions to think about:
- Do you suffer from sensitivity?
- Have you noticed your teeth looking more yellow or discoloured than normal?
- Have your teeth worn away or seem to be shorter?
If you have some or all of these symptoms, you could be suffering from dental erosion, or acidic wear.
WHAT IS DENTAL EROSION?
In simple terms, dental erosion is the breakdown of your tooth surface, which can lead to tooth damage.
HOW EROSION OCCURS
Dental erosion is caused when the teeth are bathed in acid, which wears or erodes away the tooth surface.
The acid that causes erosion, or acid wear, can come from foods or drinks that are consumed (extrinsic acid), or from conditions such as reflux or heart burn (intrinsic acid).
The acids dissolve the crystals that make up your teeth, which leads to surface damage. These acids can also soften the tooth surface, which means that they can be prone to accelerated damage due to abrasive foods or tooth grinding, also known as acid wear.
WHY ARE MY TEETH SENSITIVE AND MORE YELLOW?
Tooth sensitivity and the yellowing of your teeth are just two symptoms closely linked in erosion.
A healthy tooth has a layer of enamel, which is white/translucent in colour. Beneath the enamel is the dentine, which has a darker, yellowish colour. When the tooth surface is eroded away by acid wear, the layer of enamel is reduced in thickness, and more dentine shines through. This gives your teeth more yellow appearance.
It is this same process that causes sensitivity. Enamel acts as an insulation for the tooth, so the less enamel that is covering the surface of the tooth, the more likely it is that you will experience sensitivity. Click here to read more about tooth sensitivity.; Using a sensitive toothpaste may help reduce sensitivity, but it will not stop the process of erosion alone.
HOW CAN I SLOW DOWN DENTAL EROSION?
There are a number of ways to slow or eliminate dental erosion. If you speak with your dentist or hygienist, they will be able to assist you in determining what could be causing the acid wear. They can also suggest the ways to reduce the effects of dental erosion.
Read some tips below on how you can avoid dental erosion:
- Avoid soft drinks, fruit juices, sports & energy drinks. If you do have one of these try to drink it all at once, rather than sipping on it over a long period of time. You can also try drinking it through a straw to reduce its contact with tooth surfaces. It is also best to consume these drinks at meal times, rather than in between meals to further reduce acid attacks on your teeth. Water is best and should be the main drink consumed throughout the day.
- Using fluoride toothpastes helps to strengthen the surface of the tooth to resist acid wear. Brush twice a day with a good fluoride toothpaste, and avoid rinsing with water afterwards to allow the fluoride to remain in the mouth for a longer period of time.
- Avoid brushing straight after consuming an acidic food or drink, or after an episode of reflux or vomiting. It takes about 30minutes for the pH to return to neutral, and during this time, the acid has weakened the tooth surface. If you brush straight away, you are more likely to brush away the surface layer of the tooth. Plus, you should always use a good quality ‘soft’ toothbrush when brushing your teeth, as medium and hard bristle toothbrushes can be more abrasive to the teeth and gums.
HOW TO TREAT DENTAL EROSION
If dental erosion is not addressed, it won’t improve on its own. It will eventually lead to the severe loss of tooth structure. This can lead to poor aesthetics, sensitivity, and possible exposure of the nerve of the tooth. Dental erosion will eventually result in pain and permanent dental damage if left unchecked.
It is important to talk to your dentist or hygienist if you think you might have erosion or if you have any of these symptoms.
Depending on the severity of the erosion, it may be recommended that you get a tooth filling or dental crown, or perhaps suggest another method to restore the tooth surface to improve your teeth aesthetics and reduce sensitivity.
The key to avoiding dental erosion is to be aware of the signs and ask your dentist if you have concerns.