The wearing away of the tooth surface is usually caused by a combination of factors. Acids found in fruit juices, fizzy drinks, sports drinks, citrus fruits and pickles. Stomach acids that enter the mouth, by reflux or vomiting, may also cause erosion. The most common teeth affected by tooth wear are the upper front teeth, although all teeth can be affected. Teeth that have been eroded look glassy, can appear short, and have uneven tips that are easily chipped away. Teeth that have been eroded may become sensitive. In the long term, erosion can cause very severe tooth wear which is both uncomfortable and unsightly. Tooth wear can also be caused by mechanical forces such as aggressive tooth brushing and grinding teeth.
To help prevent erosion or tooth wear caused by acids, limit the frequency of acidic drinks and foods. Teeth should not be brushed for at least 30 minutes after having an acidic drink. This is because the acid temporarily softens the surface of the teeth and brushing them straight away can make them wear away more quickly.
For those affected by erosion or tooth wear, it is important to:
- Limit acidic foods and drinks to meal times
- Reduce the number of times during the day that acidic foods and drinks are consumed
- Choose soft drinks which have no added sugar and have been shown to pose a negligible risk of tooth erosion
- Finish meals with a small piece of cheese or a drink of milk
- Delay brushing teeth immediately after having acidic foods or drinks
- Reduce the risk of need for Root Canal Treatment
It may be possible to improve the appearance of teeth that have been eroded with the use of adhesive filling materials, veneers or crowns. However, it is important that the cause of tooth erosion is identified first before this kind of dental treatment is undertaken.
Regular check-ups at the dentist means signs of tooth wear can be detected early. If dental erosion has been diagnosed the first stage is to record accurately how severe and extensive the damage is; this is best done by the dentist taking impressions of your teeth. The impression is cast in plaster and can be used to see if the amount of erosion is getting worse over a period of time.