Tooth enamel erosion. How common is that?
Tooth enamel is the outer layer of a tooth. It is considered to be one of the strongest substances in the body of humans. The tooth enamel protects the tooth from the wear and tear which occurs due to biting and chewing and from the damage caused to the tooth caused by exposure to hot and cold food items. The tooth enamel is semi-translucent in colour. The effects of acids and chemicals are also controlled by the tooth enamel.
Tooth enamel erosion happens when the tooth enamel gets damaged and wears off. When the tooth enamel gets damaged, the dentin, which exists inside the enamel, gets exposed to the hot and cold food items and tooth sensitivity is experienced by the patient. Many factors can cause tooth enamel erosion. Some of those factors are:
Common causes of enamel erosions
Poor oral hygiene is the most important factor which can cause tooth enamel erosion. Proper and regular brushing and flossing of the teeth is crucial to maintaining good oral health.
Excessive consumption of fizzy drinks or fruit juices can lead to tooth enamel erosion as well. These types of drinks enable the bacteria in the oral cavity to produce acids which demineralize the tooth enamel.
Consumption of sugary food items or drinks can be damaging to the tooth enamel. In the same way, sour acidic food items can also erode the tooth enamel.
Dryness of the mouth or low production of saliva leads to tooth enamel erosion. Dryness of the mouth can be caused by different reasons. The saliva in the mouth has the potential to wash away the food particles stuck in the mouth and to neutralize acids in the mouth to prevent dental caries.
Certain diseases of the stomach can also cause tooth enamel erosion; these include Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, acid reflux, etc. With these conditions, the stomach acids get up to the mouth and damage the tooth enamel.
Some medications and drugs which have a high acid content can significantly erode the tooth enamel. These medications include aspirin and vitamin C drugs.
Applying unnecessary force and pressure while brushing the teeth can damage the enamel of the teeth.
Bruxism is the habit of clenching and grinding the teeth consciously or unconsciously. Most people have the habit of grinding their teeth while sleeping. Bruxism can damage the tooth enamel and can even lead to tooth fracture, chipped teeth and tooth loss.
Tooth enamel erosion gives rise to the following symptoms:
- The teeth become extremely sensitive.
- The pain would be felt when the patient consumes cold, hot or sweet food items.
- The affected teeth might get chipped and cracked due to the loss of enamel. The edges of the teeth would become irregular and rough.
- As the minerals of the tooth enamel are lost, the surface of the teeth become smooth and shiny.
- As the enamel starts to erode, it becomes thin and the yellow colour of the inside of the tooth becomes visible, making the teeth appear yellow.
- Cupping and dents on the teeth
- The teeth become more susceptible to dental caries.
Tooth enamel erosion can be prevented.
The following are some of the factors which can help to protect the tooth enamel:
Acidic foods and drinks should be avoided. These include carbonated drinks, citrus juices and citrus fruits. If not avoided, then the consumption of such items should be at least cut down and these items should be consumed at meal times to minimize the adverse effects.
Modified products could be used instead, for example, low-acid orange juices, etc.
The mouth should be rinsed properly after consumption of such food items.
The use of straws for drinking fizzy and acidic drinks can be very helpful in protecting the tooth enamel because the straw lets the acids bypass the teeth.
Sugar-free gum with xylitol can effectively neutralize the acids in the drinks and foods. It also increases the flow of saliva in the mouth. Both these factors can be very helpful for protecting the tooth enamel. However, it should be noted that excessive consumption of chewing gums can also cause jaw joint problems and tooth damage.
Drinking more water throughout the day is an excellent way to avoid dryness of the mouth and low saliva conditions.
A Toothbrush which has soft bristles should be used. Hard bristles can not only damage the tooth enamel but also the gums. Also, care should be taken to not apply too much force or pressure while brushing the teeth.
Fluoride is extremely beneficial in making the tooth enamel stronger and to prevent dental caries. Fluoridated water and fluoride toothpaste should be used to provide sufficient quantities of fluoride to the teeth. Mouthwash which has fluoride as an ingredient can also be used for the purpose.
If the tooth enamel is being eroded due to any disease, like Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, or any other disease, then the treatment for that particular disease should be initiated immediately.
Tooth enamel erosion can be repaired by applying tooth bonding, dental crowns or veneers. The actual treatment depends upon the condition of the teeth and the extent of enamel damage.