'Tooth erosion' is a term used to describe the wearing away of the tooth's enamel; this is the protective coating which shields the inner layer of the tooth from damage. Read on to learn more about this dental issue.
What causes erosion of the tooth enamel?
There are several things which can cause a tooth's enamel to erode. The excess consumption of acid-rich fruit juices and carbonated drinks can, for example, eat away at the enamel. The friction created by grinding one's teeth, as well as brushing them very vigorously, can also lead to this dental issue.
People who suffer from acid reflux disease may be more prone to this problem than most, as this health condition causes the extremely strong stomach acids to flow up towards the oesophagus, throat and eventually, the mouth, where they then erode the teeth.
Those who eat a diet that is high in starches and sugar are also more susceptible to tooth erosion. This is because these are the type of foods that bacterial plaque thrive on. When the bacteria consume starch and sugar, they release acids that destroy the tooth's enamel.
What are the effects of tooth erosion?
Tooth erosion can cause a number of dental health problems. The first thing that most sufferers notice is that they develop an increased sensitivity to the temperature of food and drink; they may find that they feel a sharp pain in their teeth when they eat an ice-cream or drink a hot cup of coffee. This pain is the result of the sensitive layer underneath the enamel, known as 'dentin', becoming exposed. In addition to causing greater levels of sensitivity, the exposure of the dentin (which is naturally yellow in colour) can make the teeth appear stained and unsightly.
Tooth erosion can also increase the likelihood of a person developing cavities and infections. When this outer layer wears away, the acids created by bacterial plaque will eventually cause the inner layer of the tooth, including its pulp, to decay and develop infections. This, in turn, may lead to sufferers having to undergo lengthy and expensive dental treatments, such as root canals and fillings.
Lastly, erosion of the enamel can also make teeth more susceptible to breakage; without this hard outer coating, there is nothing to protect the weak dentin from being chipped or fractured.
What treatments can be used to address tooth erosion?
Unfortunately, once it is lost, tooth enamel is gone forever. However, it is important for those who suffer from this problem to have their dentist carry out some form of restorative dental work, in order to protect the dentin and the pulp of the tooth from damage and decay.
One option is to place artificial tooth-like 'caps' on the affected teeth (such as crowns or veneers). This is usually recommended for cases of severe tooth erosion, where the person is experiencing a lot of discolouration, sensitivity and decay. For milder cases of erosion, a procedure called 'bonding' is often very effective; this involves layering and then curing composite resin onto the teeth. For more information on all your options, contact a dentist.