Erosion is the loss of tooth substance caused by acid attack. Enamel is the hard, protective coating of the tooth, which protects the sensitive dentine underneath. When the enamel is worn away, the dentine underneath is exposed, which may lead to pain and sensitivity.
Erosion usually shows up as hollows in the teeth and a general wearing away of the tooth surface and biting edges. This can expose the dentine underneath, which is a darker, yellower colour than the enamel. Because the dentine is sensitive, your teeth can also be more sensitive to heat and cold, or acidic foods and drinks. One Irish study found evidence of severe dental erosion in 1 child out of every 5 examined.
Every time you eat or drink anything acidic, the enamel on your teeth becomes softer for a short while, and loses some of its mineral content. Your saliva will slowly cancel out this acidity in your mouth and get it back to its natural balance. However, if this acid attack happens too often, your mouth does not have a chance to repair itself and tiny bits of enamel can be brushed away. Over time, you start to lose the surface of your teeth.
Bulimia is a condition where patients make themselves sick so that they lose weight/ avoid gaining weight. Because there are high levels of acid in the vomit, this can cause damage to tooth enamel.
Acids produced by the stomach can come up into the mouth (this is called gastro-oesophageal reflux). People suffering from hiatus hernia or oesophageal problems, or who drink too much alcohol, may also find they suffer from dental erosion due to vomiting.
Acidic foods and drinks can cause erosion. Acidity is measured by its ‘pH value', and anything that has a pH value lower than 5.5 is more acidic and can harm your teeth.
All fizzy or carbonated drinks can cause erosion. It is important to remember that even the ‘diet' brands are still harmful. Even flavoured fizzy waters can have an effect if drunk in large amounts, as they contain weak acids which can harm your teeth.
Acidic foods and drinks such as fruit (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, all berries such as strawberrys, raspberrys, blueberries) and fruit juices - particularly citrus ones including lemon and orange - contain natural acids which can be harmful to your teeth, especially if you have a lot of them often.
Any drink that contains fizz including sparkling water damages your teeth. Wine and beer also damage your teeth.
Plain, still water is the best drink for teeth. Milk is also good because it helps to cancel out the acids in your mouth.
Low fat fruit flavoured yogurts, vinegar and salad dressing can all cause erosion if over consumed. Some teas and coffee without milk are acidic. Hot lemon water is definitely not a good idea for your teeth!
Many sports drinks contain ingredients that can cause dental erosion as well as decay. However, it is important for athletes to avoid dehydration because this can lead to a dry mouth and bad breath.
There are a number of things you can do:
As well as using a fluoride toothpaste, we may suggest you use a fluoride-containing mouthwash and have a fluoride varnish applied at least every six months. We may also prescribe a toothpaste with more fluoride in it or other products that help prevent erosion.
Usually, simply bonding a filling onto the tooth will be enough to repair it. However, in more severe cases we may suggest a veneer or crown.
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