What is dental erosion?
Erosion is the loss of tooth enamel caused by acid attack. Enamel is the hard, protective coating of the tooth, which protects the sensitive dentine underneath. When the enamel is worn away, the dentine underneath is exposed, which may lead to pain and sensitivity.
How common is dental erosion?
Dental erosion is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of dental erosion?
Erosion usually shows up as hollows in the teeth and a general wearing away of the tooth surface and biting edges. This can expose the dentine underneath, which is a darker, yellower color than the enamel. Because the dentine is sensitive, your teeth can also be more sensitive to heat and cold, or acidic foods and drinks.
Common symptoms include:
- Certain foods (sweets) and temperatures of foods (hot or cold) may cause a twinge of pain in the early stage of enamel erosion.
- As the enamel erodes and more dentin is exposed, the teeth may appear yellow.
- Cracks and chips. The edges of teeth become more rough, irregular, and jagged as enamel erodes.
- Severe, painful sensitivity. In later stages of enamel erosion, teeth become extremely sensitive to temperatures and sweets. You may feel a painful jolt that takes your breath away.
- Indentations appear on the surface of the teeth.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes dental erosion?
Tooth erosion happens when acids wear away the enamel on teeth. Enamel erosion can be caused by the following:
- Excessive soft drink consumption (high levels of phosphoric and citric acids)
- Fruit drinks (some acids in fruit drinks are more erosive than battery acid)
- Dry mouth or low salivary flow (xerostomia)
- Diet (high in sugar and starches)
- Acid reflux disease (GERD)
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Medications (aspirin, antihistamines)
- Genetics (inherited conditions)
- Environmental factors (friction, wear and tear, stress, and corrosion)
Friction, wear and tear, stress, and corrosion (or any combination of these actions) can cause erosion of the tooth surface. More clinical terms used to describe these mechanisms include:
- This is natural tooth-to-tooth friction that happens when you clench or grind your teeth such as with bruxism, which often occurs involuntary during sleep.
- This is physical wear and tear of the tooth surface that happens with brushing teeth too hard, improper flossing, biting on hard objects (such as fingernails, bottle caps, or pens), or chewing tobacco.
- This occurs from stress fractures in the tooth such as cracks from flexing or bending of the tooth.
- This occurs chemically when acidic content hits the tooth surface such as with certain medications like aspirin or vitamin C tablets, highly acidic foods, GERD, and frequent vomiting from bulimia or alcoholism.
What increases my risk for dental erosion?
There are many risk factors for dental erosion, such as:
- Tooth location. Decay most often occurs in your back teeth (molars and premolars).
- Certain foods and drinks. Foods that cling to your teeth for a long time – such as milk, ice cream, honey, sugar, soda, dried fruit, cake, cookies, hard candy, breath mints, dry cereal, and chips – are more likely to cause decay than foods that are easily washed away by saliva.
- Frequent snacking or sipping.
- Bedtime infant feeding.
- Inadequate brushing.
- Younger or older age.
- Dry mouth.
- Worn fillings or dental devices.
- Eating disorders.
Diagnosis & Treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is dental erosion diagnosed?
Your dentist can usually detect tooth decay easily by:
- Asking about tooth pain and sensitivity
- Examining your mouth and teeth
- Probing your teeth with dental instruments to check for soft areas
- Looking at dental X-rays, which can show the extent of cavities and decay
How is dental erosion treated?
Dental erosion does not always need to be treated. With regular check-ups and advice your dental team can prevent the problem getting any worse and the erosion going any further. If a tooth does need treatment, it is important to protect the enamel and the dentine underneath to prevent sensitivity.
Treatment of dental erosion depends on the problem. Usually, simply bonding a filling onto the tooth will be enough to repair it. However, in more severe cases, the dentist may recommend covering the tooth with a crown or veneer. The crown may protect the tooth from further decay.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage dental erosion?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with dental erosion:
- Eliminate highly acidic foods and drinks from your diet such as carbonated sodas, lemons, and other citrus fruits and juices. Rinse your mouth immediately with clear water after eating acidic foods or drinking acidic drinks.
- Use a straw when you drink acidic drinks. The straw pushes the liquid to the back of your mouth, avoiding your teeth.
- Monitor snacks. Snacking throughout the day increases the chance of tooth decay. The mouth is acidic for a few hours after eating foods high in sugar and starches. Avoid snacking unless you’re able to rinse your mouth and brush teeth.
- Chew sugar-free gum between meals. Chewing gum boosts saliva production up to 10 times the normal flow. Saliva helps strengthen teeth with important minerals. Be sure to select sugar-free gum with xylitol, which is shown to reduce acids in beverages and foods.
- Drink more water throughout the day if you have low saliva volume or dry mouth.
- Use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride strengthens teeth, so make sure fluoride is listed as an ingredient in your toothpaste.
- Ask your dentist if sealants may be helpful in preventing enamel erosion and tooth decay.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: March 2, 2017 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019
Dental erosion. https://www.dentalhealth.org/tell-me-about/topic/mouth-conditions/dental-erosion. Accessed Mar 2, 2017.
Tooth Enamel Erosion and Restoration. http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/tooth-enamel-erosion-restoration#1-1. Accessed Mar 2, 2017.
Cavities/tooth decay. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cavities/basics/definition/con-20030076. Accessed Mar 2, 2017.