Erosion is progressive and irreversible wearing down of the teeth due to the softening of the tooth enamel. It can forever change the size and shape of teeth and can lead to complete tooth destruction.
The enamel is the durable, outer coat that guards our teeth. As the enamel disintegrates, the dentine underneath becomes exposed, and this often leads to pain and hypersensitivity when eating or drinking hot or cold drinks.
The signs and causes of tooth erosion
The primary cause of tooth erosion is consistent and excessive consumption of acidic food and drinks. Other causes include acid reflux, teeth grinding, enthusiastic brushing and even industrial acids that are airborne (especially in the battery, galvanizing and fertilizer industries).
Aside from tooth sensitivity, common symptoms include discolouration of the teeth (due to the exposed dentine), a change in the way fillings fit and chipping or strange impressions on the teeth.
Acidic drinks and food that may cause erosion
- Soft drinks and sports drinks – even if they’re sugar-free
- Acidic foods, like citrus fruits and tomatoes
- Dried fruits, including raisins that stick to the teeth
- Citrus flavoured drinks such as lemon, lime and orange juices
- Sour candies
How do you prevent tooth erosion?
- Avoid acidic drinks. If you do, avoid swishing acidic drinks between your teeth or keeping the liquid in your mouth.
- Use a straw. If you consume acidic drinks, use a straw instead of sipping your beverage over long periods.
- Wash down with water. Drink water after having acidic drinks, candies, or foods. Rinse your mouth with water if possible.
- Chew sugar-free chewing gum. Saliva helps buffer acids; chewing sugar-free gum may help prevent erosion by promoting saliva flow.
- Wait before brushing. Do not brush your teeth immediately after eating or drinking acidic drinks or snacks. Wait for at least half an hour before brushing.
- Brush your teeth. Brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste using a soft-bristled toothbrush.
How can dental erosion be treated?
Tooth erosion is irreversible, but your dentist will help you prevent it from getting any worse. If necessary, your dentist may recommend a simple treatment to protect your enamel and dentine.