Throughout the course of an individual’s life, teeth are exposed to many physical and chemical insults, which can contribute to their deterioration. As lifestyles have changed through the decades, the amount and frequency of consumption of acidic foods and drinks have increased. Since more people are keeping their teeth longer, erosive wear is becoming increasingly significant in the management of the long-term health of the dentition and the overall well-being of those who suffer its effects.
Dental erosion is the progressive, irreversible loss of tooth structure caused by chemicals such as dietary, gastric, or environmental acids that are placed in prolonged contact with the teeth.
Erosion alters the appearance and anatomy of the tooth and can lead to extreme sensitivity and can compromise the esthetic appeal of one’s smile.
Diagnosing this condition and initiating treatment can be quite challenging to the dental professional. While preventive and restorative treatments have been successful, with significant erosive loss of tooth structure extensive dental treatment may be necessary.
The primary causes of dental erosion include:
- Diet – acidic fruits, juices, carbonated beverages and sports drinks, herbal teas, vinegars and pickled foods, candies.
- Medications – chewable Vitamin C and Aspirin tablets, iron tonics, and saliva substitutes.
- Occupation – these are the result of the presence of certain atmospheric gases that become mixed with the saliva, producing acidic solutions.
- Sports – swimming in improperly chlorinated commercial pools.
- Overt vomiting or regurgitation of gastric fluids into the mouth.
- Consequences of anatomic defects, such as hiatus hernia, gastroesophageal reflux disease and esophageal diverticulosis.
- Psychological problems such as alcoholism, bulimia and anorexia nervosa.
- Medical conditions such as peptic ulcer and morning sickness during pregnancy.
Preventive & Restorative Treatment Options
Early recognition, elimination of the causative habit and behaviour modification are the most effective treatments of dental erosion. However, once it has occurred, erosion is irreversible and can only be treated with preventive measures for early erosions and restorations for more advanced lesions.
Preventive measures include eliminating acids and improving the resistance of the teeth to acidic attacks. Using sugar-free chewing gum to increase saliva flow and drinking ample amounts of water for a greater cleansing effect also are beneficial. Fluoride mouth-rinses, gels and varnishes, as well as dental bonding can be applied to reduce hypersensitivity, stop tooth structure softening by dietary acids and encourage the rebuilding of enamel. Restorative treatments, such as fillings and crowns, or referral to specialists may be indicated for extensive tooth loss.
Effective Tips for Preventing Dental Erosion
- Drink highly acidic drinks with a straw to keep acids away from your teeth.
- Do not swish highly acidic drinks in your mouth, such as colas and juices.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with gentle strokes.