Tooth Enamel—Erosion and Restoration
Acid erosion or enamel erosion is quite a common tooth disease that can cause irreparable damage to the teeth. Our mouth is constantly consuming something or the other throughout the day. Acids of different strength and concentration can cause harm to the teeth. Frequent exposure to acids (through foods of different kinds) can lead the hard tissues of the teeth to erode which makes the teeth sensitive and causes pain and discomfort while eating.
What is Tooth Erosion?
Tooth erosion refers to the erosion of the outermost covering of the teeth—the enamel. Enamel is a translucent hard tissue that serves as a protector of the teeth. Since it is the outermost covering of the teeth, it is the first thing to get affected when acid is produced in the mouth. The enamel covering lacks living cells and therefore cannot regenerate itself when cracked. When the enamel is damaged, the teeth lose their protection. The wearing away of the enamel is precisely referred to as tooth erosion.
What are the factors that cause erosion of the enamel?
One of the major factors that lead to enamel erosion is the production of acid by the bacteria in the mouth. As a result of frequent exposure, the enamel layer is lost and the surface of the tooth becomes exposed to the acids in the mouth. This exposure eventually leads to tooth erosion which is the most common chronic condition witnessed in children from ages 5-17. In addition to acid exposure, the following reasons also contribute to irreparable damage of the tooth.
- Excessive consumption of soft drinks: Acids present in fruit juices, when consumed in higher amounts, is harmful to the tooth. In addition to fruit juices, soft drinks or carbonated drinks contain high levels of phosphoric and citric acid which, when consumed regularly, can cause erosion of the enamel.
- Dry Mouth: Scientifically known as xerostomia, the dry mouth syndrome leads to reduced salivary flow in the mouth increasing the acid content in the mouth and causing the erosion of the tooth structure.
- Unhealthy oral habits: such as chewing on the end of a pen or not brushing/flossing regularly cause gradual decay of the tooth.
- Gastrointestinal Problems: an acid reflux from the stomach into the mouth can cause the enamel to erode. Gastrointestinal problems such as frequent vomiting and acid reflux brings high levels of acid into the mouth and causes the tooth enamel to wear away leading to the erosion of the tooth.
- Genetics: In some cases, tooth erosion is caused because of the genetics of an individual.
- Medications: Certain medications (such as aspirin and antihistamines) introduce acids or substances of similar concentration in the mouth which leads to enamel decay.
How can Tooth Erosion be identified?
Like many health problems, tooth erosion also comes with certain signs such as:
- Discoloration: This is probably the first thing that people with enamel erosion experience. As the enamel layer wards off, the dentin is exposed and begins to appear yellow as the acid feeds on it.
- Sensitivity: When the enamel layer is destroyed, the teeth become more sensitive to certain foods and their temperatures. As the erosion progresses, the teeth become highly sensitive to sweets and temperature of the foods and pain is experienced while food consumption.
- Cracks and Chips: Enamel erosion leads to the edge of the teeth becoming more rough, jagged and irregular.
How can Tooth Erosion be prevented?
The one common preventive measure for all problems relating to dental health is brushing and flossing your teeth regularly—at least twice a day. Regular dentist appointments are next on the list. However, there are some more extreme routines that you can indulge in to prevent tooth erosion.
- Curtailed intake of acidic food and drinks: reducing the consumption of food that harms the teeth can prove to be very effective for the teeth. It is a wise decision to avoid highly foods and drinks that are carbonated as well as citrus in nature.
- Chewing sugar-free gum: In some cases, dry mouth (and hence reduced salivary flow) is the major cause of enamel erosion. Chewing sugar-free gum can increase the flow of saliva in the body and therefore help in preventing enamel erosion. Chewing-gums with sugar are not recommended because sugar triggers the growth of bacteria in the mouth.
- Using Fluoride Toothpaste: Fluoride is good for the teeth as it strengthens them and decreases their vulnerability to erosion.
Under normal circumstances, saliva produces just enough protection for the teeth. However, if an individual follows a diet rich in acidic content and an unhealthy oral hygiene, the protection of the saliva is not enough. In that case, visiting your dentist and seeking dental in addition to avoiding certain foods and regularizing your oral routine is the best thing to do.