When the enamel of a tooth is worn away, the
tooth often becomes sensitive
and is more susceptible to decay.
Advanced cases often require crowns
to save the teeth.
Tooth enamel may be worn away in several ways.
One or more of the following factors may cause premature wear:
is the gradual loss of enamel through "wear". A
small amount of attrition may be caused by normal speaking
and eating, but this typically doesn't produce excessive wear.
More extreme cases of attrition are typically caused by Bruxism,
the grinding of teeth against teeth. Bruxism
typically occurs at night while the patient sleeps, so often
the patient is unaware of the grinding or enamel loss.
is the wearing away of tooth enamel by a foreign object. Common
causes of abrasion are:
- Brushing too hard or too long
- Fingernail biting, chewing on pens or pencils, holding
needles or pins between the teeth, etc.
- Oral jewelry - Patients with pierced lips and/or tongue
often wear away the enamel on adjacent teeth
is the chemical wear of tooth enamel. Typically this kind
of wear is caused by an acid. Citric acid is one of the most
common agents. Citrus fruit (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit)
contain citric acid, as do most soft drinks and citrus juices
(like lemonade). Some candies also contain citric acid. Many
soft drinks contain additional harmful acids. Coffee and tea
also contain corrosive acids. Bulimic individuals (people
who intentionally and repeatedly induce vomiting) also expose
their teeth to very strong stomach acids.
Occasional exposure to most dietary acids is
rarely a problem, but repeated exposure to high levels of
these acids can cause premature wear. Some common habits to
- Regularly sucking on lemons or limes
- Regularly eating or sucking on candies, especially "sour"
candies as they often contain sugar and citric acid!
- Drinking several soft drinks daily, even "diet"
- Drinking several glasses of lemonade daily
- Drinking several cups of coffee or glasses of tea daily
Even if you only occasionally eat or drink highly acidic
foods, it's a good idea to at least rinse your mouth with
fresh water when you are finished in order to reduce the amount
of time the acids have to work on your teeth.