What is dental erosion?
Dental erosion is the loss of tooth enamel and other tooth structure from frequent exposure to strong acids.
How do I know if I have dental erosion?
Dental erosion usually shows as a general wearing away of the teeth’s surface. It can create increased sensitivity when consuming hot or cold and acidic foods or drinks. This increased sensitivity may indicate the enamel is wearing away and therefore exposing the underlayer of dentine, which is highly sensitive. A dentist will be able to help determine if you have dental erosion.
What are the causes of dental erosion?
Each time you consume acidic food or drinks, the tooth enamel is at risk of losing some of its mineral content. However, saliva plays an important role by helping to reduce the acidity in the mouth every time we eat or drink something, bringing back a balance in pH in the mouth. Some of the most common causes of dental erosion therefore include:
- Acidic food and drink
- Some medications
- Stomach acid that regurgitates into the mouth
The continuous consumption of these acidic factors overtime exposes the tooth enamel more often and reduces the chance for repair. This results in tooth enamel gradually being taken away from the surface of your teeth. The loss of enamel may be slight to virtually total. In severe cases, the teeth can be dissolved down to the gum line.
How common is dental erosion?
Dental erosion has become more frequent particularly amongst children, teenagers and young adults.
What is the difference between dental erosion and tooth decay?
Dental erosion and tooth decay are not the same. Tooth decay (caries) occurs when bacteria in the mouth turn sugar into acid which can cause damage to the tooth. Poor hygiene and frequent consumption of sugar are the cause of tooth decay.
What are common risk factors and acidic sources that contribute to dental erosion?
Common risk factors and acidic sources that should be avoided, limited or properly managed include:
- frequent intake of acidic food and drinks such as carbonated soft drinks (both regular and sugar-free), sports drinks, energy drinks, red and white wines, fruit juices and cordials, citrus fruits, fruit jams, vinegar based foods such as pickled vegetables and some salad dressings
- acidic medications such as a chewable vitamin C tablet, some cough syrups, and some antiseptic mouthwashes
- some medications taken for long term treatments such as asthma drugs
- dry mouth, which can be caused by various factors, including smoking, medical treatments (such as some blood pressure and mood – altering drugs and chemotherapy) or medical conditions including Sjogrens syndrome
- medications that increase gastric reflux such as some anti-inflammatory drugs, including aspirin and asthma medications
- conditions that cause chronic regurgitation, vomiting or reflux, such as morning sickness, bulimia, hiatus hernia or peptic ulcer
- frequent exposure to poorly balanced, highly chlorinated water in swimming pools
- chronic dehydration that can occur, for example, in athletes who train heavily and often consume acidic drinks such as sports drinks
What can I do to prevent dental erosion?
To help prevent dental erosion you can:
- Immediately after consuming acidic food or drink, rinse your mouth with water, milk or a recommended mouthwash (typically a fluoride mouthwash)
- Drink more tap water throughout the day, especially between meals
- Avoid or at least restrict your intake of acidic foods and drinks. Limit acidic drinks to mealtime.
- Drink plain (not flavoured or sweetened) milk instead of acidic drinks
- Drink acidic drinks through a straw. Place the straw tip well behind your front teeth at about mid tongue
- Delay tooth brushing for at least 30 minutes after acidic exposure to allow saliva to help stabilise the tooth enamel
- Brush teeth at least twice daily using a soft toothbrush and a non abrasive toothpaste.
- Chew sugar-free gum to increase saliva production
- Swallow vitamin C tablets whole with water instead of chewing
How can dental erosion be treated?
Of course, a visit to your dentist twice a year will help keep your oral health in check. Greenvale Dental Group can provide you with advice about whether your teeth require treatment, as well as how to prevent further dental erosion. If If you would like to book an appointment call 9333 6854 or book online today!
The aim of this blog is to provide general information and does not contain all known facts about dental erosion.
Dr Soraya is the principal dentist and owner of Greenvale Dental Group with over 25 years’ experience in the field of dentistry.
Soraya’s areas of treatment include general dentistry, dental emergencies, dental implants, endodontics, cosmetic dentistry, and crown and bridge dentures.