What is Dental Erosion?
Dental erosion is loss of tooth enamel and other tooth structure due to frequent exposure to acids.
Severities vary from almost complete loss of enamel to only slight. In some cases the erosion can be so advanced that it can dissolve the tooth down to the gum line.
Pain and sensitivity are common symptoms of dental erosion, this is due to the dentine and pulp (nerve and blood supply) becoming exposed. This can lead to an abscess or infection associated with that tooth.
Dental erosion has become more common over recent years, particularly among children, teenagers and young adults due to the increased exposure to sugary and acidic foods and drinks.
As with many diseases of the body, the first step in treatment is prevention; to manage your exposure to acids.
Common sources of acid:
Frequent intake of acidic foods and drinks including carbonated soft drinks (regular and sugar-free), sports drinks, energy drinks, wine (red or white), fruit juices, cordials, citrus fruits, jams, vinegar based (pickled) vegetables and some salad dressings.
Acidic medications include chewable vitamin C tablets, cough syrups and some antiseptic mouthwashes.
Some medications taken for long term treatments, including asthma medications
Dry mouth, which can be caused by various factors including; smoking, medical treatments (i.e. blood pressure and mood-altering medications and chemotherapy) or medical conditions including Sjögren’s syndrome.
Medications that increase gastric reflux such as some anti-inflammatory drugs, including aspirin and asthma medications.
Conditions that cause chronic regurgitation, vomiting or reflux, such as morning sickness, bulimia, hiatus hernia or peptic ulcer.
Frequent exposure to poorly balanced, highly chlorinated water in swimming pools.
Chronic dehydration that can occur, for example, in athletes who train heavily and often consume acidic drinks such as sports drinks.
What are the 10 ways to limit or prevent acid erosion of teeth?
After consuming acidic foods or drinks immediately rinse with water, milk or recommended mouthwash (typically fluoride mouthwash)
Drink more tap water throughout the day
Avoid or restrict your intake of acidic foods and drinks or at least limit these drinks to meal times
Drink unflavoured milk instead of acidic drinks
Drink acidic drinks through a straw placed well behind your front teeth
Delay brushing your teeth for at least 30 minutes after acid exposure to allow saliva to stabilise enamel
Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush using fluoride toothpaste
Do not rinse mouth with water after brushing, allowing the fluoride to sit on your teeth
If you grind your teeth at night it may be desirable for you to have a customised splint made to minimise mechanical damage to the teeth. Erosion can accelerate tooth ware due to tooth grinding.
Enjoy cheese or dairy products whilst consuming acidic drinks or foods to help neutralise the saliva.
How can Dental Erosoin be treated?
The dentist will complete a routine exam and determine whether erosion is present and diagnose the severity of it.
In some mild cases, the dentist may recommend:
· Use of a fluoride toothpaste
· Topical cream containing CPP-ACP
· Apply fluoride varnish
· Chewing sugar free-gum or xylitol containing products to help increase saliva production
This will help the remaining enamel against further erosion and can help with sensitivity.
Severely eroded teeth may need root canal treatment or extraction. In some cases, restorative treatments may improve the look and function of your teeth.
If your acid source is medication or a medical condition you should consult with your GP. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medication to reduce your risk of erosion.
Composite resin restorations can create a physical barrier between the tooth and the acid. However, the dentist will try to limit the exposure to acid prior to any extensive restorative work.