Daily wear and tear, including that caused by harsh food and drinks, can cause serious damage to our tooth enamel. Enamel erosion causes many changes to the appearance of our teeth, and makes them more prone to cavities and tooth sensitivity. Once enamel erodes, it will never grow back. However, some of the changes in tooth appearance and function can be treated with dental work. At Dr. John F. Rink's Charleston cosmetic dentistry practice, you will find numerous procedures that can repair years of damage caused be enamel erosion. However, the best approach for patients is the prevention of tooth erosion.
What Is Tooth Erosion?
Tooth erosion is the loss of enamel. Enamel is the protective layer of the teeth. It is extremely hard; in fact it's the hardest substance in the human body. When enamel is lost, the inner dentin of the tooth is exposed. The exposed dentin allows hot, cold, and sweet foods and beverages to reach the nerves within the tooth. This can cause painful sensitivity when eating and drinking.
What Are the Causes of Tooth Erosion?
Tooth erosion has a number of causes, including:
- Drinking a lot of soft drinks or fruit juices: Soft drinks and fruit juices are high in sugar. The bacteria that live in our mouths thrive on sugar. The acid that is produced by the bacteria wears away enamel.
- Poor dental hygiene: Failure to brush and floss regularly leaves food particles on our teeth, providing an ideal environment for bacteria.
- Eating acidic foods: Acidic foods erode tooth enamel. After consuming acidic foods, rinse your mouth out with water and wait 30 minutes before brushing your teeth.
- Acid Reflux: Acid reflux allows stomach acid to come up into the mouth and erode tooth enamel.
- Frequent vomiting: Like with acid reflux, vomiting brings stomach acid into contact with the teeth. People who suffer from bulimia or binge drinking (where they vomit frequently) are constantly exposing their teeth to harsh stomach acid.
- Dry mouth: Saliva is beneficial for our teeth for two main reasons. First it helps wash away food particles from our teeth; second, it helps to neutralize the acid in our mouths. Low amounts of saliva inhibit the removal of food remnants and results in higher acid levels in the mouth.
- Teeth grinding: Regular teeth grinding can wear down the enamel through friction.
- Vigorous tooth brushing: Using excessive force when brushing your teeth can wear down the surface enamel of your teeth.
How Can I Prevent Tooth Erosion?
Because tooth erosion is largely based on acid levels in the mouth, preventing the erosion process can be as simple as changing your diet. Some ways in which you can prevent tooth erosion includes:
- Reducing the amount of sugary and acidic foods and drinks in your diet.
- Practicing regular proper oral hygiene (brushing at least twice a day and flossing once a day).
- If you suffer from acid reflux or frequent vomiting, it is important to treat the cause of those conditions in order to keep stomach acid from ruining your teeth.
- Chew sugar-free gum to increase saliva production.
- Use a soft bristle tooth brush if you brush too vigorously.
Undergo a Dental Exam
For our patients in Charleston, restorative dentistry treatments such as crowns, inlays, or onlays may be used to add support to teeth damaged by tooth erosion. Contact the Charleston Center for Cosmetic and Restorative Dentistry to undergo a dental exam at our practice.