What is dental erosion and why should it concern me?
Erosion is the loss of tooth enamel caused by acid attack. Enamel is the hard, protective coating of the tooth, which protects the sensitive dentine underneath. When the enamel is worn away, the dentine underneath is exposed, which may lead to pain and sensitivity and lead to a detrimental appearance as dentine is darker in colour to enamel.
Erosion usually shows up as hollows in the teeth and a general wearing away of the tooth surface and biting edges. This can expose the dentine underneath, which is a darker, yellower colour than the enamel. Because the dentine is sensitive, your teeth can also be more sensitive to heat and cold, or acidic foods and drinks.
The softening of tooth enamel by dental erosion is often compounded by other causes of tooth wear, resulting in a greater loss of tooth tissue:-
This is natural tooth-to-tooth friction that happens when you clench or grind your teeth such as with bruxism, which often occurs involuntary during sleep.
This is physical wear and tear of the tooth surface that happens with brushing teeth too hard, improper flossing, biting on hard objects (such as fingernails, bottle caps, or pens), or chewing tobacco.
This occurs from stress fractures in the tooth such as cracks from flexing or bending of the tooth.
What causes dental erosion?
Every time your teeth are exposed to anything acidic, the enamel on your teeth becomes softer for a short while, and loses some of its mineral content. Your saliva will slowly cancel out this acidity in your mouth and get it back to its natural balance. However, if this acid attack happens too often, your teeth find it harder to repair themselves and over time, you start to lose the surface of your teeth.
- Excessive soft drink consumption (high levels of phosphoric and citric acids) – this includes sports drinks, which can be very erosive
- Fruit drinks (some acids in fruit drinks are more erosive than battery acid)
- Dry mouth or low salivary flow (xerostomia)
- Diet (high in sugar and starches)
- Acid reflux disease (GERD)
- Bulimia – a condition where people make themselves vomit to lose wait – vomit is acidic
- Alcoholics – often vomit frequently – vomit is acidic
- Gastrointestinal problems, hiatus hernia
- Medications (aspirin, antihistamines)
- Genetics (inherited conditions)
- Environmental factors (friction, wear and tear, stress, and corrosion)
Listed below are the ‘pH values’ of some food and drinks:
The lower the pH number; the more acidic the product – acidic foodstuffs have a Ph lower than 7. ‘Alkalis’ have a pH higher than 7 number and neutralise the acid effects of sugars.
- mineral water (still) pH 7.6
- milk pH 6.9
- cheddar cheese pH 5.9
- lager pH 4.4
- orange juice pH 3.8
- grapefruit pH 3.3
- pickles pH 3.2
- cola pH 2.5
- red wine pH 2.5
- vinegar pH 2.0
What can I do to prevent dental erosion?
There are a number of things you can do:
- Keep acidic products and fizzy drinks to mealtimes, to reduce the number of acid attacks on your teeth.
- Drink quickly without holding in or ‘swishing’ around your mouth. Or use a straw to help drinks go to the back of your mouth and avoid long contact with your teeth.
- Finish a meal with cheese or milk as this will help cancel out the acid.
- Chew sugar-free gum after eating. This will help produce more saliva to help cancel out the acids which form in your mouth after eating.
- Wait for at least one hour after eating or drinking anything acidic before brushing your teeth. This gives your teeth time to build up their mineral content again.
- Brush your teeth for a minimum of two minutes twice a day with a small-headed brush with medium to soft bristles and fluoride toothpaste. Using a remineralising toothpaste designed to combat dental erosion can help.
How can The 247 Dentist help with dental erosion?
It is very important to diagnose the presence of dental erosion, which The 247 Dentist can help with. The dentist can also help to identify whether the dental erosion does needs to be treated, or can be managed conservatively.
The 247 Dentist can apply a coating, filling or veneer to the teeth in question to help repair the teeth and/or reduce sensitivity. They can also help you to register with a dentist for routine check-ups in order that the erosion can be monitored and managed conservatively.