Dental erosion is the irreversible damage to the teeth enamel caused by acid and not by bacteria. As the erosion is caused by acid, dental erosion is sometimes also called acid erosion. Enamel is the outer covering of the teeth — this part covers the crown of the teeth which is the part that is visible outside. Recent studies have shown that dental erosion is on the increase among children and youth. There is a strong connection between dental erosion and the food habits among this group.
Enamel helps in providing good strong protection to the teeth. Protection is given to the teeth when it is involved in chewing, biting, chemicals, and high or low temperatures. The main aspect of concern in this dental health problem is that it is irreversible. The saliva produced in the mouth helps in cancelling the effects of acid to a certain extent, but when it happens too frequently and saliva does not get time to neutralise the effects of the acid, dental erosion happens.
Signs of erosion
The following are the typical signs of dental erosion.
Change in colour:
It is quite easy to find out if the enamel is getting eroded. One of the most common symptoms would be the teeth changing color. Generally the yellow tint that is seen in the teeth is one of the common visible signs of dental erosion.
Sensitivity of teeth:
Another sign that is seen in the case of dental erosion is sensitivity in teeth. In this case, the teeth is affected by temperature – this can be hot or cold temperature. Slight pain and discomfort is felt when hot or cold drinks are consumed.
Rough jagged teeth:
As enamel gets eroded, the edges of the teeth gets chipped or broken and results in a jagged appearance. You would also feel that your teeth has become smaller. Some people also notice that lower portion of the teeth appears to be transparent, this is because of losing enamel coating.
Causes of Dental Erosion
Eroding of the enamel by acid can happen in different ways. Teeth gets affected by the food and drinks that are consumed daily. Broadly you can think of the causes as due to intrinsic and extrinsic reasons.
Acid can reach the mouth cavity due to reflux in the stomach. Acid from the stomach which usually aid in digestion, can get regurgitated to the mouth. This can damage the enamel and cause erosion.
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder, a condition in which people induce vomiting to reduce weight. Along with intentional vomiting, acids from the stomach also gets into the oral cavity and causes damage.
Pregnancy can also induce acids to reach oral cavity due to abdominal pressure. Some women experience vomiting during pregnancy but erosion is seen in very rare cases.
Excessive consumption of soft drinks can lead to dental erosion. There are different types of fizzy drinks available in the market, they contain weak acids in them. Consuming these drinks in large amounts or frequently can lead to erosion.
Not just fizzy drinks, some fruit drinks also lead to dental erosion as they have acid content in them. Wine and beer consumption also are known to cause erosion.
Amount of saliva in the mouth is affected due to consumption of certain drinks. Reduced amount of saliva will lead to reduced buffering action in the mouth.
Plaque formation also leads to dental erosion. When food is not cleaned thoroughly and stays stuck to the surfaces of the teeth, the bacteria acts upon it and changes the food into acid and erodes the teeth enamel.
Other factors such as stress, or certain medications affect erosion of enamel. It has also been cited as an occupational hazard in some cases.
Preventing and Caring
Preventive strategies need to be given utmost importance when dealing with dental erosion. A definite and sure method of keeping away dental erosion is maintaining good dental hygiene. This involves brushing and flossing daily. The benefits of this habit cannot be stressed enough.
Besides this, one can follow preventive measures based on the causes of dental erosion. As fizzy drinks and some fruit juices cause this due to the acid content in them – reducing the amount and frequency of consumption will help preserve enamel to a large extent. Reducing the chances of the enamel coming in contact with the acid containing drinks will definitely help, sipping drinks using straws is known to reduce this contact.
Rinsing mouth or cleaning mouth after you have consumed juices or food which have high citric acid content like citrus fruits helps. The acid does not remain in the mouth to affect the enamel in this case.
Reduction in saliva can cause dry mouth, frequently drinking water or taking sips of water will help to counter effect the reduction of saliva in the mouth as well as act as a cleaning agent. Dry mouth is also caused by certain medications, so do check with your doctor about the side effects of the drugs you are consuming. Chewing gum also helps generate saliva.
Using the correct toothpaste can preserve enamel. Enamel gets extra protection if you use toothpaste which has fluoride in it. One should also take care in not brushing teeth with force as this can lead to the enamel getting eroded.
Dental erosion treatment depends on the extent of problem a person has. It is generally preventive in nature. Bringing out changes in life style, taking care of the food and drinks that is consumed all help in reducing or checking dental erosion to some extent. Regular dental check-ups will give you a good idea on how good your oral health is. If the teeth shows early signs of enamel erosion, changes in food diet will definitely help to set right the problem. As the problem progresses, more extensive treatment might be required. Procedures such as crowns or veneers help offer protection to the enamel. Your dentist will be able to guide you based on the findings after a dental examination.