Tooth wear is the progressive and irreversible loss of a tooth’s surface over time.
Our teeth will naturally experience some minor wear over the course of the years, but it’s important to know about three key factors – abrasion, attrition and erosion – which can cause damaging ‘accelerated tooth wear’ (ATW).
Abrasion – this most commonly occurs due to over-aggressive brushing and affects the sides and necks of the teeth.
Attrition – this type of damage is caused by excessive ‘tooth to tooth’ contact, which is usually due to direct grinding or clenching of the teeth.
Erosion – this is the loss of tooth structure through acid erosion, which is primarily caused by acidic food and drink such as fruits, juices, fizzy drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks, and also by stomach acid regurgitation.
Patients often come to us with a combination of these three factors – and we’ve seen increasing instances of ATW in recent years, simply because more and more people are living longer and retaining their natural teeth into old age.
The resulting loss of a tooth’s structure from ATW can cause significant harm and can become complicated to repair, so if you take steps to prevent it now, your teeth will thank you in later years!
To combat erosion, cut down on drinking carbonated drinks and fruit juices with high levels of acidity. Bear in mind that you should also avoid brushing your teeth for at least 20 minutes after consuming acidic food and drink, as the acid softens the enamel, making it more vulnerable to damage.
Make sure you schedule regular dental appointments so that we can monitor the state of your teeth and stop any early signs of tooth wear in their tracks. This is particularly important with attrition, as it is such a slow-progressing condition that you may only be made aware of any damage when you visit your dentist.
If you grind your teeth in your sleep – known as bruxism – treatment may include the use of a bite guard for you to wear during the night. If you clench your teeth during the day, then, depending on the cause of this habit, management might involve counselling, exercises, medication, restoration or orthodontic surgery.
To avoid abrasion, talk to us about the correct toothbrushing technique – and ask for advice about the best toothpaste for your needs. Not all toothpastes are created equal! Some whitening versions have more abrasive qualities, whilst good fluoride toothpastes promote the formation of a calcium fluoride layer which combats erosive tooth wear. It’s also vital to stop pen-biting or using your teeth as a ‘tool’ for opening bottle tops, holding pins or nails, and so on.
Rest assured that if you adopt good dental care habits now and schedule regular dentist appointments into your routine, your teeth will see you through into your twilight years!