Erosion is the loss of the tooth enamel caused by acid attack. Enamel is the hard, protective coating of the tooth, which covers the sensitive dentine underneath. When the enamel is worn away, the dentine underneath is exposed, which may lead to pain and sensitivity.
How do I know if I have dental erosion?
Erosion usually shows up as hollows in the teeth and a general wearing away of the tooth surface and the biting edges of the teeth. This can expose the dentine underneath, which is a darker, yellower, colour than the enamel. As the dentine is exposed, the teeth can become sensitive to hot, cold or sweet food and drinks. The front teeth may begin to look short and square, with sharp edges that break easily.
What causes dental erosion?
Every time acid touches the enamel on your teeth, the enamel becomes softer and loses some of its mineral content. The acid that causes the problems can come from food, drinks or from your stomach (in the case of vomiting or acid reflux).
Your saliva will slowly neutralise the acid in your mouth and restore it to its natural balance. However, if the acid attack happens often, the mouth does not have a chance to repair itself and tiny particles of enamel can be brushed away. Over time, the surfaces of the teeth become worn away.
Are there any medical problems, which can cause dental erosion?
There are many medical conditions, which can cause dental erosion. Acids produced by the stomach can come up into the mouth (gastro-oesophageal reflux). Patients suffering from Hiatus hernia and other oesophageal problems may also find that they suffer from dental erosion due to vomiting. Bulimia is a condition where patients make themselves sick in order to try to lose weight. Because there are high levels of acid in vomit, this can easily and quickly cause extensive damage to tooth enamel.
What problems can it lead to?
Dentine is the softer, sensitive internal part of the tooth. As this becomes exposed, it also becomes more liable to decay, leading to cavities and possible fillings. The dentine is also sensitive, which can cause pain when you have hot, cold or sweet foods and drinks.
The parts of the tooth suffering from erosion can also be unsightly. The dentine is darker and the teeth become shorter.
Can a change in my diet help prevent dental erosion?
Acidic foods and drinks such as fruit and fruit juices can be particularly harmful to teeth. Fruit juices and fruit contain natural acids, which are also harmful to teeth. Fizzy drinks are also a cause of enamel erosion. It is important to remember that even diet brands are still harmful. Even flavoured fizzy waters can have an effect if taken in large amounts, as they contain certain acids, which can harm teeth.
If you have acidic foods and drinks, you should have these at meal times only, not as snacks between meals.
Healthy foods such as fruit and fruit juices are not always the best options for teeth if you have them often. It is also recommended that you do not brush your teeth for at least one hour after eating or drinking anything acidic, so that your teeth can build up their mineral content again from your saliva.