23 Aug What is Tooth Enamel Erosion, and Can it Be Treated?
Using our mouth and teeth is an automatic and unconscious process. Quite simply our teeth are there and we use them. On the surface, teeth are a white coating called enamel. Below the surface is a complex layer of tissue and nerves that play important roles in overall mouth and body health. Enamel acts as the shield to all that lies underneath. When enamel erosion occurs, the tissue below becomes exposed, causing sensitivity, tooth discoloration, and teeth more prone to breakage. What is tooth erosion, and can it be treated?
Causes of Enamel Erosion
Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in our bodies and contains the highest percentage of minerals (96%).[i] The mineral content in enamel creates the hardness but is also what makes this thin enamel covering susceptible to acid erosion. Acid erosion can be caused by the following:
Foods and Beverages – Foods high in sugar content, citric and phosphoric acid are a significant contributor of enamel erosion. Think candy, soda and fruit drinks. Some fruit juices are more acidic than battery acid, so while you may feel healthy drinking your juice, the high acidic and sugar content in these beverages is not good for teeth.
Dry Mouth – Saliva helps moisten food; it rinses out lodged food particles and keeps our tongue and gums hydrated. Dry mouth can be caused by genetic factors or certain medications. When dry mouth occurs, our gums and tongue can become inflamed – ideal conditions for bacteria to thrive and grow. These bacteria attack enamel causing erosion. Stay hydrated during the day. Sugar-free gums can also help with saliva production. If symptoms of dry mouth are causing discomfort, contact us to discuss solutions for relief.
Digestion – Gastrointestinal issues including acid reflux can cause damaging acid to regurgitate in the mouth, sending bacteria and acids in an attack against enamel. These health issues may be caused by the foods we eat, interrelated to other health issues, or it may be a genetic condition. If you are suffering from digestive problems, we encourage you to contact your family physician.
Other causes of enamel erosion include grinding of teeth, daily wear and tear from eating, and lack of a regular dental hygiene routine.
Signs of Enamel Erosion
As the enamel erodes, teeth may become sensitive to hot or cold foods and beverages. In a fragile state, teeth can crack and fracture. Discoloration and translucency occur as the enamel wears down and the dentin tissue layer under the enamel begins to show. These indications of erosion should be examined by a dentist to prevent further damage.
Treatment of Enamel Erosion
Once enamel erosion has occurred, a treatment plan is identified by your dentist. Sealants or bonding are thin layers of special material that can be applied to the chewing surface of your back teeth and helps prevent decay. They can be used in children and adults and are proven to reduce the risk of decay by about 80% in back teeth (molars). In more severe cases, a crown or veneer is placed over the tooth to prevent further erosion.
Prevention of Enamel Erosion
The easiest way to prevent enamel erosion is to maintain a regular dental care program. Follow the Daily 4:
- Thoroughly chew your food to ensure proper digestion
- Brush teeth 2 times a day for 2 minutes each time
- Floss like a boss, once per day in the evening before bedtime
- Rinse with mouthwash for a final rinse and sterilization
Additional steps include a reduction in eating high sugar, high acid foods. When you are enjoying these special treats, rinse your mouth with water afterward to flush out bacteria. Chewing gum helps produce saliva, further rinsing and hydrating your mouth. And of course, twice-annual visits to your dentist are recommended to remove plaque-causing bacteria that an at-home toothbrush cannot remove.
If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, contact our office to schedule an appointment. The best step to take in protecting your beautiful smile is to be proactive. We care about you and your health.
Imperial Dental Center
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