Tooth erosion can be a problem for so many people, and the symptoms are rather similar to cavities. But there is a huge difference between these two tooth emergencies.
But what is tooth erosion?
Why does it happen?
And is there a way to prevent it?
Here is everything you need to know about this dental emergency, and why it is crucial to address the situation as soon as possible.
You don’t always need to wait for the last possible moment to seek emergency dental care.
What is Tooth Erosion?
To understand what dental erosion is, you need to know the anatomy of a tooth. The other layer of the tooth is called enamel, and it is a protective layer that covers dentin.
Dentin is the soft part of the tooth, and underneath is the pulp that holds nerves and blood vessels.
Tooth erosion is a process of dissolving the enamel of the tooth, which will leave dentin exposed. It is crucial to understand that dental erosion is not the same as tooth decay. And it is not caused by bacteria.
What Causes Tooth Erosion?
If bacteria is not a problem, what tooth erosion causes?
Dental erosion is caused by acids that can dissolve enamel. This means that anyone with acid reflux or excessive vomiting can be in danger of tooth erosion.
Additionally, highly acidic foods and drinks can also be a cause of the problem. This includes soft drinks even if they are sugar-free.
Furthermore, citric acid can also be a problem, including citrus fruits, juices, vitamin C tablets, lemon (and lemon-flavored drinks), sports drinks, alcohol, and so on.
Needless to say, the damage to teeth will be permanent, which is why it is crucial to work on prevention and ways to improve oral hygiene.
Symptoms and Signs
Tooth erosion is a gradual process, and it will take time. But an experienced dentist will be able to easily spot signs. One of the first things that will happen is that teeth will become chalky and discolored.
As the condition progresses, they will become more and more yellow. Of course, there are other reasons for teeth to change color, and diet will play an important part in it.
As erosion progresses, teeth will start having sharp edges, and it is possible for them to crack as well.
Finally, tooth sensitivity is a common problem, and you might experience toothache while eating and drinking hot, cold, acidic, and sugary foods and drinks.
As you can see, there are a few symptoms that are similar to cavities, which is why it is essential to talk to your dentist.
They will be able to determine what causes these symptoms and recommend the best way to treat the condition.
How to Fix Tooth Enamel Erosion?
While the damage to teeth is permanent, this doesn’t mean that there is no way to repair tooth enamel. And there are plenty of ways a dentist can solve the problem. But the first thing on the list would be to visit your dentist.
They will need to determine the cause of erosion and address the underlying condition as well. Whether you have an eating disorder or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), you will need to make a couple of lifestyle changes.
Those that consume too many acidic foods and drinks will need to find a replacement, and other conditions need to be treated as well. Otherwise, the problem will continue in the future as well.
When it comes to fixing the issue, the main question is the amount of damage to the teeth. Smaller damage can be fixed with veneers, but if the situation progresses, dental fillings might be necessary.
Moreover, some people will need to get crowns if a larger portion of the tooth is damaged. The next step would be root canal treatment, and if erosion goes even further, it might lead to tooth loss.
As you already know, there are ways to replace a missing tooth such as dentures and implants, and it all comes down to the specific situation.
Can You Prevent Erosion?
Yes. There are a few ways to prevent tooth erosion, as well as other symptoms and conditions that come with it. If it is caused by specific medicine or medical condition, you will need to address it as soon as possible.
Your doctor should suggest alternative medication that won’t cause any damage to your teeth.
As for diets, the best option is to cut down on fruit juices, soft drinks, and any other type of acidic foods and drinks. If you still want to consume them, consider drinking a glass of water after each meal. This includes coffee as well.
Furthermore, you should focus on improving your oral hygiene, brushing your teeth regularly, and don’t forget to floss your teeth, a better option than using regular floss is water flossing, rinsing your mouth if needed, and so on.
Avoiding alcohol is also a good idea, and try not to eat anything at least three hours before sleep to avoid acid reflux.
All of these changes in your diet will improve your condition and lower the chances of tooth erosion.
Additionally, they will improve your oral hygiene and help you avoid other conditions such as tooth decay and gum disease.
What To Do?
The first thing to do is to visit your dentist. Since we are talking about diets and medications as a way of preventing tooth erosion, this isn’t something you should experiment with on your own.
Your dentist will also be able to tell you whether it is erosion, dental infection, or caries, as well as recommend viable tooth erosion treatment options.
This way, you will be able to get your teeth fixed and eliminate the problem that caused erosion in the first place.
And of course, prevent the problem from happening in the future as well. Of course, if you are in pain, emergency dental services will be able to assist you as soon as possible.
About The Author:
Gilbert D. Curtis, DDS, is an associate professor at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine. He teaches both the undergraduate Doctor of Dental Medicine curriculum and the Advanced Education General Dentistry Residency.