In the US, we are accustomed to think of tooth decay as being the main danger to our teeth. Tooth decay is when oral bacteria generate acid and cause small holes — cavities — to appear in our teeth. Tooth erosion is something different, though.

Tooth erosion is when your teeth are being worn down by environmental factors. It can drastically cause the reduction of your tooth enamel, leading to the need for cosmetic and reconstructive dentistry. Here are some of the common causes of tooth erosion and how they can be treated.

Attractive young brunette woman holding her hands in front of her mouth, scared to show her tooth erosion. Tooth erosion can be damaging to your smile, resulting in cosmetic, functional, and health problems.

Bruxism

Bruxism is when you clench or grind your teeth. You might do it during the day when you’re awake or overnight as you sleep. Bruxism not only wears down the tops of your teeth, it can cause your tooth enamel to bulge and crack around the gum line, making it vulnerable to acidic attack or aggressive brushing.

If you have bruxism, you might notice that you wake up with a headache or have sore jaws. Your partner might tell you that you grind your teeth constantly at night.

Bruxusm is often related to TMJ and may respond to TMJ treatment.

Sugary, Acidic Drinks

Our tooth enamel is vulnerable to damage by acids, and, unfortunately, many of the beverages we enjoy on a daily basis can be very acidic. From white wines to dark colas to colorful sports drinks, there are many culprits for acidic erosion of the teeth, though there are also some healthier alternatives.

Symptoms of this type of food erosion include sensitivity and the color changes to  your front teeth, tooth sensitivity, and tooth chipping and cracking.

Drinking acidic drinks causes the enamel of your teeth to literally dissolve away. Your teeth will need to be restored. In many cases, this can be done with just some veneers or dental crowns in the worst-affected area.

Stomach Acid

In addition to acidic drinks, stomach acid is another source of acid that can attack your teeth. The most common way that teeth are exposed to stomach acid is GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease. In this digestive condition, stomach acid bubbles up during your sleep, entering your mouth as a corrosive vapor that can cause significant damage to your teeth and gums.

Another way that teeth are exposed to stomach acid is because of purging behavior related to bulimia. When bulimics purge their stomach contents, stomach acid comes, too, and gets all over the teeth, breaking them down chemically.

In either case, damage starts at the back of teeth, so you might not see the damage until it is already causing tooth damage and tooth sensitivity. Treatment involves ceramic restorations for all damaged teeth.

Hard Foods

In the past, people eating poorly refined food that was milled by stone (and had stone pieces in it) experienced significant tooth erosion related to their food. These days, we eat more soft, refined food, but there are still some food products that can lead to tooth erosion. Consumption of lots of raw vegetables like carrots or kale can be very wearing on teeth, as can treats like popcorn.

These hard foods can cause your teeth to shrink as they get worn down from the top of the biting surface.

If your diet is causing this problem, we might first recommend diet changes. Then we might restore damaged teeth with ceramic restorations.

Abrasive toothpaste

Oral hygiene habits can also be erosive to our teeth. Toothpastes come in a wide range of formulae, and some are very erosive. They will wear away your teeth quite quickly. The amount of erosion you suffer from tooth brushing can be worse if you use a hard-bristled brush or brush too aggressively.

The first symptoms might be tooth sensitivity. However,  you might also notice receding gums, and discoloration of your front teeth, which is ironic because many of these toothpastes are advertised as “whitening.”

Treatment of this type of tooth erosion first involved getting rid of your old toothpaste. If your teeth are already seriously damaged, you might need reconstruction of your smile.

What to Do About Tooth Erosion?

Tooth erosion can be damaging to your smile, resulting in cosmetic, functional, and health problems. For cosmetic problems, porcelain veneers can be used to make your teeth beautiful again. Functional problems can be addressed with dental crowns and possibly TMJ treatment. But if your erosion has compromised the health of your tooth pulp, a root canal might also be necessary.

To learn what is the best approach for treating your tooth erosion in Rockland County, please call (845) 627-7645 for an appointment with a cosmetic dentist at B & D Dental Excellence in West Nyack.