Tooth erosion is common, and tooth erosion symptoms can be distressing. With 2.4 billion people worldwide suffering from tooth erosion, it’s never been so important to try and solve this problem with a suitable treatment.
When discussing tooth erosion or teeth erosion treatment options with your dentist, it’s important to understand exactly what it is and how eroded teeth affect your health, including tooth erosion that occurs at the gum line.
What is enamel?
Tooth erosion refers to the erosion of tooth enamel. Enamel is the visible, outermost cover of your teeth. It covers all of the soft tissue and sensitive nerves to prevent damage and pain. Think of it as your teeth’s outer layer of protection. Tooth enamel is rich in minerals and surprisingly hard – even harder than steel! It is more brittle than steel but is still the hardest biological material. While you might think the hardest biological material has a good chance at standing up against erosion, years of high acidity and sugar-heavy diets, a habit of teeth grinding, or even acid reflux can all cause this ultra-hard material to erode. Unfortunately, enamel is not something that can repair itself. A dental professional will need to work with you to correct enamel erosion.
Causes of tooth enamel erosion
Tooth erosion can be caused by many things, but especially your diet. Foods like citric fruits, candy, and wine all create a very acidic environment in your mouth. This acid breaks down the enamel in your teeth. An unlikely culprit of tooth enamel is sugar. While sugar doesn’t directly erode tooth enamel, it creates an environment where certain bacteria grow and thrive. These specific bacteria create acid and can be detrimental to tooth enamel, especially over long periods of time. This effect extends to anything containing sugar such as soft drinks (which are especially bad because they contain sugar and citric acid), candy, desserts, and even many starches (e.g. white bread).
Medical and Hereditary Conditions
Acid reflux, dry mouth, and even your genes can all contribute to tooth decay. Acid reflux causes acid to ascend from your stomach and back into your mouth, which can lead to eroded teeth. This is most commonly known as GERD, which needs to be addressed by a medical professional. Dry mouth also creates a good environment for acidic bacteria to grow and needs to be treated by a physician or dentist. Finally, genetics could be working against you. Some people have parents, grandparents, and even ancestors who carry a specific variation of the gene beta-defensin 1 (DEFB1), which often results in damaged teeth and excessive cavities.
If you find yourself suffering from seasonal allergies, daily aches and pains, or even depression, your body may be more inclined to experience tooth decay. Antihistamines and aspirin both contribute to dry mouth, which creates an ideal environment for acid-creating bacteria. Some antidepressants create a dry mouth or can have adverse interactions with products your dentist may use. For this reason, it’s always important to tell your dentist what medications you are currently taking. He or she will know how to prevent or combat any negative interactions.
Smokers are much more likely to experience tooth decay (and a plethora of other dental diseases) and lose their teeth than nonsmokers. Nicotine often causes dry mouth, which creates a perfect environment for enamel-damaging bacteria. Aside from the plethora of health benefits that extend to your entire body, quitting smoking can directly improve the health and longevity of your teeth.
Tooth erosion symptoms
Tooth decay is best treated early. Early treatment will allow for minimal permanent damage. Enamel is not something that can fix itself; instead, a dentist will likely fortify the enamel to prevent further damage. If you’re worried about possible tooth decay, these are some of the most common symptoms that could indicate your tooth enamel is breaking down.
As the tooth enamel begins to break down, you may experience seemingly random tooth pain. It often doesn’t appear to have a trigger and isn’t completely gone after taking painkillers like ibuprofen. This pain has to do with parts of the tooth swelling and pressing on adjacent nerves. When enough of the enamel is broken down, the rest of the tooth is exposed to acid, which causes inflammation and pain.
Sensitive teeth can be a result of genetics but are most often the result of a tooth or gum condition. Because the layer of enamel is broken down, eating or drinking foods your teeth might normally be fine with may cause pain. The lack of protection means that the sensitive core of the tooth can be easily aggravated by eating especially hot, cold, or sweet foods. This may even extend to experiencing pain during your teeth cleaning. It’s always a good idea to set up an appointment with your dentist sooner rather than later if you notice any tooth sensitivity.
Healthy enamel can be different colors, but most decaying enamel takes on a grey, brown, or even black color. White teeth can naturally specify tooth erosion problems; however, because of whitening products, it is not always a reliable indicator. If you whiten your teeth, the whitening products may be covering up an underlying enamel issue, which is why regular appointments with your dentist are so important. If you whiten your teeth but experience any of the above symptoms, you may need to speak with your dentist about tooth erosion treatment options.
Bad breath can be an excellent indicator of many dental problems. Aside from infections or gum disease, it may also indicate tooth decay. After the enamel on teeth wears down enough, tooth decay naturally moves on to other parts of the tooth. One of the most serious places it may spread to is the pulp. The pulp is found in the bottom part of the tooth around the nerves and roots. When the tooth decay spreads to the pulp, the tissue begins to die and emits a nasty smell.
Teeth Erosion Treatment
We only have one set of adult teeth and unlike skin or muscle tissue, they cannot repair themselves. For this reason, prevention is always the best treatment; however, if you already have tooth damage, dentists can help you mitigate the damage and prevent it from getting worse. There are many tooth erosion treatment options!
Prevent significant loss
Dentists may advise you to change your diet or lifestyle when combating tooth erosion. This might mean limiting sodas, citric fruits, and candy. Alternatively, they might provide you with a fluoride gel or toothpaste that will fortify your enamel. Fluoride has been proven to prevent the breakdown of minerals in the tooth’s enamel and replace some of the already lost minerals. It also creates a hostile environment for acid-creating bacteria. Luckily, some of the best preventative measures for tooth decay are easy changes. Unfortunately, once the tooth erosion goes too far the treatment is not as easy.
Treat significant loss
Depending on the severity of enamel erosion, your dentist may recommend a crown or veneer. These not only offer a cosmetic solution to decaying teeth, but they also cover and protect the tooth from further decay. This will likely require multiple trips to the dentist, but with the right dentist, there’s no need to worry.
One of the best things you can do for your teeth and gums is to schedule regular dental appointments. Arkansas Family Dental will work with you through every step of your dental health. From prevention with regular cleanings and healthy habits to treatment with crowns or veneers, the staff at Arkansas Family Dental will be your partner in putting a happy, healthy smile on your face. If you’re ready to take control of your dental health, contact us here.
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