Why is tooth enamel wearing away?
I have been practicing for over 10 years now and one of the things I am noticing more and more of is enamel erosion. In children and adults alike. Erosion is a wearing away of enamel caused by acidity. This can be caused by GERD, acidic beverages, or inadequate saliva/dry mouth. The minerals in our saliva will buffer acids but if there is not enough saliva or too much acid this creates a problem. Enamel is hard and designed to resist acid attack. But modern diets and habits are becoming more acidic. Dietary sources of acid include wine, fruit juice, teas, berries, soft drinks, lemon water even straight up water can be acidic in nature. If your saliva output is normal and you don’t consume these things daily you usually don’t experience erosion. But if you regularly eat or drink acidic foods and drinks, have GERD are dehydrated or have dry mouth you may experience erosion. And this is unfortunately many of us. Even children under the age of 5 are at risk for erosion.
The pictures above are of erosion. The top left is of the inside of the upper front teeth and the right is of a molar. I see this almost daily. Truthfully, it’s becoming hard to avoid acidity. And once tooth material is eroded it’s gone for good unless a dentist places a restoration or filling of some kind. Thinner or eroded enamel puts you at higher risk for breaking teeth and tooth decay. And once the enamel is gone and dentin is exposed the erosion progresses much faster. It pays to be vigilant and try to avoid sources of acid.
How do you know if you have erosion?
What you may notice is darkening or yellowing of enamel as shown above, a translucency of the teeth, or increased tooth sensitivity. Your teeth may also chip or break, feel sharper than before or get food stuck easily. Having regular dental assessments and teeth cleaning will greatly lower your risk. Your dental professional will be able to diagnose erosion and help you prevent it.
What you can do to prevent erosion?
- Stay hydrated by drinking enough water.
- Avoid using coffee, tea and energy drinks as a source of hydration. Two or more litres of good old H2O is recommended daily depending upon your activity level. Lemon water is thought to be healthy… not so much for your teeth. I often get asked if I drink it through a straw does it still cause stain or erosion? Well if it goes straight down the hatch nope, but if you park it or swish it yup. **Do not brush right after drinking or eating something acidic. Same goes if you vomit or have reflux. The teeth are softer for approximately an hour after exposure to acid so brushing immediately will cause more wear.
- Be sure that your water is not one bottled by a soft drink manufacturers as it can be acidic in nature. Click here for an article that discusses acidic vs alkaline. If you take medication that causes dry mouth you will need to drink more water.
- Having Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease or frequent heartburn is another risk factor see your healthcare practitioner and have it treated.
- If you smoke you are at risk. Smoking decreases salivation use this as another reason to quit.
- Avoid whitening products including toothpastes that say they whiten if you have erosion or sensitive teeth. Most are abrasive in nature and will cause more erosion.
- See a dental professional regularly and ask them if they see signs of erosion. We can help you through a dietary analysis and assessment of your daily habits to ensure that your teeth remain healthy for life. We can also guide you to choose helpful products that can strengthen the enamel and improve tooth health.
Do you have questions about erosion? About your mouth health in general? I am always here to answer questions. Call 519-736-1100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org