When the enamel of a tooth is worn away, the tooth often becomes sensitive and is more susceptible to decay. Advanced cases may require a crown to save the tooth. Tooth enamel may be worn away in several areas. One or more of these factors can cause premature wear:
Attrition is the gradual loss of enamel through wear. A small amount of attrition may be caused by normal speaking and eating. More extreme cases of attrition are typically caused by bruxism (the grinding of teeth against teeth.) Bruxism usually occurs at night while the patient is sleeping, so often they are unaware.
Abrasion is the wearing away of tooth enamel by a foreign object. Common causes of abrasion are:
- Brushing too hard or too long
- Fingernail biting, chewing on pens or pencils, holding needled or pins between your teeth, etc
- Oral jewelry–patient with pierced lips and/or tongue often wear away enamel on adjacent teeth.
Erosion is the chemical wear of tooth enamel. Typically this kind of wear is caused by an acid. Citric acid is one of the most common agents. Citrus fruit (lemons, limes, oranges, or grapefruits) all contain citric acid, as do most soft drinks and citrus juices. Some candies also contain citric acid. Many soft drinks contain additional harmful acids. Coffee and tea also contain corrosive acids. Occasional exposure to most dietary acids is rarely a problem, but repeated exposure to high levels of these acids can cause premature wear. Some common habits to avoid:
- Regularly eating lemons or limes
- Regularly eating or sucking on sour candies (and worse yet–sugar candies!)
- Drinking several soft drinks daily–that includes diet soft drinks
- Drinking several glasses of lemonade daily
- Drinking several cups of coffee or tea daily
Even if you only occasionally eat or drink highly acidic foods, it’s a good idea to at least rinse your mouth with fresh water when you are finished in order to reduce the amount of time the acids have to work on your teeth.
If you would like to examine your teeth to determine whether or not there is premature wear of enamel, please contact us for a complimentary evaluation.