One of the most common problems in dentistry is toothwear.
Toothwear is the loss of tooth surface by means other than tooth decay. There are 3 main types: erosion, abrasion and attrition.
Toothwear may be the result of one of these or a combination of two or more.
Erosion is due to acid - acid erosion. Toothwear happens firstly in the hard outer enamel layer and then progresses to the inner dentine layer. Acid erosion is from acids in diet or from stomach acid. The stomach acid may be spilled into the mouth in acid reflux indigestion (GERD – gastro oesophaeal reflux disease) or from prolonged or frequent vomiting. Acids are found in fizzy drinks, citrus fruits, fruit teas and many alcoholic drinks.
Abrasion is where teeth are worn away, by other devices, that are not the opposing teeth. Some examples are brushing with a particulate toothpaste (smokers toothpaste or one with beads), biting nails or pens, picking with toothpicks or pieces of plastic, using too hard a toothbrush or an incorrect brushing technique.
Attrition is toothwear caused by teeth grinding together. The teeth have edges that fit against the opposite ones like a jigsaw. The teeth end up shorter and flattened and may chip at the edges. Attrition is accelerated by having a fewer number of teeth, with the load being greater on the remaining individual teeth. A clenching or grinding habit can make the rate of toothwear even faster.
How to prevent tooth erosion?
Avoid fizzy drinks, but if you must make sure they are as cold as possible and preferably drink through a straw. This means the acidic liquid bypasses most of the teeth. Drink straight down without swirling around your mouth.
Seek help from your general medical practitioner (GP doctor) if you fell you have frequent episodes of acid reflux indigestion (heartburn) or frequent unexplained vomiting.
Wait at least half an hour after eating or drinking acidic foods before brushing your teeth.
How to avoid abrasion toothwear?
- Use a medium or soft toothbrush with a small head or;
- Use an electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor.
- Don’t use too much force when brushing teeth, especially the canine (eye) teeth
- Use a fluoride or sensitive toothpaste and not the smokers versions
- Use a correct technique for toothpicks or use interdental brushes instead
- Avoid biting nails, pins or pens.
Avoiding dental attrition
If you have lost teeth they are better replaced to avoid overloading and wearing the remaining teeth. Teeth can be replaced with dentures, bridges or implants.
If you grind or clench your teeth if may be beneficial to wear a biteguard, for night-time or daytime use, to prevent further damage to your teeth. Your dentist can make one of these for you.
As for everything else prevention is better than the cure, so if you’ve noticed some changes in the shape of your teeth, have a chat with your dentist or one of ours for some great advice and interceptive treatment.
If there has been extensive tooth surface loss I may be able to help restore your teeth to form function and aesthetics.