Eroded teeth occur when the tooth enamel that functions to protect and cover the tooth’s surface deteriorates. Enamel is made of calcified components, making it the strongest substance in the human body. Tooth erosion is a gradual process that initially affects the enamel by removing mineral constituents. It is vital to treat the symptoms before further deterioration occurs to the dentin located underneath. Generally, constant acid exposure is the main cause of eroded teeth since it wears down the protective coating over time.
The oral and gastric mucosa contains several different acids responsible for the digestive process. It is normal for mouth acids to come in contact with teeth every once in a while and the enamel is suitable and strong enough to protect the teeth without wearing away.
However, with the exposure of more acids from external sources as well as from the stomach (perimolysis), the enamel may not be strong enough to withstand the acidity. The teeth surface will begin dissolving with constant contact and expose the more sensitive regions of the inner teeth.
Causes and Risk Factors
One of the most common causes of eroded teeth is regular consumption of acidic beverages and food. Fizzy drinks like colas, pure fruit juices, carbonated drinks and foods high in acid content can dissolve the protective minerals lining the teeth. When too much acid is present in the oral mucosa, the function of saliva in remineralizing or reinforcing the protective coating is compromised thereby making enamel more sensitive to degradation.
Dry mouth is another potential cause of eroded teeth since lack of saliva inhibits remineralization. Gastric acid reflux or GERD is a great risk factor since the stomach acids and contents are very acidic and strong enough to dissolve enamel. All gastrointestinal conditions leading to constant vomiting and acid reflux are risk factors.
Teeth trauma can also make a person prone to developing tooth erosion. If the tooth is damaged, rotten, broken or fractured, the consistency of the enamel is compromised. This makes it more sensitive to acid as well as bacteria. Eroded teeth can also pinpoint bulimic patients since they constantly experience gastric reflux by manual stimulation.
Drug abuse and smoking can also cause tooth erosion by weakening the protective agents. Other risk factors include gum diseases, gingivitis, allergies, liver diseases like hepatitis, bacterial infection, oral thrush, damaged braces or protheses and stress. There are also reports that tooth enamel is sensitive to lemon juice and chlorinated water.
The usual sign of eroded teeth is that they appear in broad and round concaves. The teeth are not jagged as normal from the degradation and patients will not be able to fully get a full bite or contact between the upper and lower teeth. On some occasions, the teeth may be cracked, chipped or broken.
Another early sign is teeth discoloration resulting from the dentin exposure. The dentin has a yellow color but discoloration can range to light or dark brown. Tooth sensitivity is another common symptom. Patients with eroded teeth will most likely feel shakiness or instability of teeth upon biting or chewing. Aside from being rounded, eroded teeth can also have a sandblasted appearance due to the deterioration. The front teeth tips appear very thin or transparent.
During the late stages, cracking and dents especially at the molars are present. Teeth will also become more sensitive over time and patients cannot be served very hot or cold food and beverages at this point. Pain is most likely to result from extreme sensitivity. As enamel continues to thin down, teeth can decay or rot.
The best treatment for eroded teeth would be crown or veneer fitting. It will relatively strengthen the structure of the teeth and prevent further deterioration. Crowns are recommended for patients presenting late symptoms while veneers are good during early stages.
Fluoride treatment and application is also indicated plus addition of minerals to strengthen the surface of the teeth. If there are already cracks or decays, some teeth may have to be removed to avoid further sensitive reactions and pain. For tooth erosions caused by gastric reflux, antacids can be given. Bulimic patients need to be monitored carefully. Regular hydration and medications are also indicated for patients with dry mouth to promote remineralization.
Consume acidic food and beverages quickly to shorten exposure on teeth and flush or rinse mouth with a glass of water. Brush at least twice a day to enforce teeth with calcium and fluoride. It is advisable to brush an hour after consuming acidic food and beverages to help the teeth remineralize first.
It is better to limit or stay away from carbonated drinks. Use a straw when drinking. Drink eight to ten glasses of water a day and chew sugar-free gum to increase saliva production. Floss regularly and observe for any adverse changes in teeth or gum appearance. Limit alcohol intake and quit smoking. Also make it a habit to visit the dentist once every six months for a full assessment.