What is Tooth Erosion?

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Tooth erosion is a term used to describe the wearing away of tooth enamel. Your tooth is composed of two main layers, the outer enamel and the sensitive inner layer of dentin which protects the root of your tooth. The outer enamel is a protective barrier which is quite hard and durable and protects your dentin from exposure to air and fluids. If your enamel is eaten away by acids, the dentin can become exposed to air, fluids and food debris which can often cause a great deal of pain, discomfort and tooth sensitivity. The signs of tooth erosion are easy to spot and it often begins as the biting edges and tooth surface are worn away. You may also notice hollows appearing in your teeth. You will be able to spot the beginnings of dentin exposure, as dark spots with a deep yellow tinge to them. This is often accompanied by erratic sensitivity to hot or cold and certain foods or drinks.

The main cause of tooth erosion is acid attack. This occurs when you consume any acidic substances and causes the enamel on your teeth to soften. Most of the time, your saliva will neutralise the acid on the teeth and prevent the enamel from being eaten away. However, if you frequently subject your teeth to acidic foods or drinks, then your saliva won't have a chance to repair the damage and this can often lead to the loss of tiny sections of enamel. As time progresses, this accumulates into major erosion and the surface of your teeth will start to recede. Tooth erosion often affects people suffering from Bulimia. People who have this condition, engage in a binge/purge cycle of consuming foods then attempting to vomit then back up so that they don't put on weight. Due to the high acidic content of the vomit which collects in the mouth, tooth enamel can often be eaten away. There are also several other conditions which cause vomiting and in turn acid erosion.

One step you can take to protect against tooth erosion is to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Take care to avoid high volumes of acidic substances like citrus fruits or fruit juices, as these can often have a detrimental effect on your teeth. Soft drinks which contain high levels of sugar and other types of fiy drink (including fiy water) can also contribute to the erosion of your enamel due to the acids they contain. Try to limit the amount of acidic foods you consume during meals and don't brush for around an hour after ingesting anything acidic so that you don't brush away any weakened enamel. Similarly, drinking acidic drinks or fruit juices through a straw can help to prevent the acid having prolonged contact with your teeth and in turn, prevent erosion. To neutralise the acid effects of certain foods and drinks, you can end your meal with a drink of milk or some cheese. As always, brushing and flossing at least twice a day is vital to the general health of your teeth as well as preventing enamel erosion. Make sure you have regular check ups with your dentist so that you can have an oral exam and any potential problems can be spotted far in advance.

Read more in the Dental Treatment Information Guide »