What Is Dental Erosion?
Dental erosion is the wearing away of dental tissues, with the loss of the surface of the teeth due to the acids, not bacteria. This may be caused by acids produced in the body which affects the teeth due to reflux or vomiting, and with acids contained in the drinks like carbonated drinks and sports drinks.
Acids can melt and soften the crystals that make up our teeth and make them susceptible to be worn away with abrasion. This is also called acid wear.
Dental erosion is a serious condition for dental problems where dental hard tissues are lost due to acids which are produced inside or come from outside, called intrinsic or extrinsic reasons.
Not many studies have been carried out yet, to know the exact figures for prevalence of this condition but it is estimated that it is common all over the world, among adults and children.
Symptoms of Dental Erosion
When the surface of tooth gets eroded, it makes the tooth sensitive to cold and hot food and even when the atmosphere gets too cold o, the teeth can be sensitive to outside temperature and may cause discomfort.
In advanced condition of dental erosion, the enamel gets worn away and dentine gets exposed, showing yellow marks on the tooth surface. If a tooth decay has been treated and the tooth has a filling, this filling gets exposed due to dental erosion of the same tooth.
The cause of acids eating away or eroding the tooth material can be intrinsic or extrinsic.
Intrinsic causes of dental erosion
One of the functions of saliva which is produced in the mouth is to protect the teeth and mouth from the acidic attack that occurs in the normal course of day. Gastric juices are produced to digest the foods ingested by individuals. When these juices pass through oral canal very frequently in the form of reflux or vomiting, the saliva is unable to protect the teeth from these acids in the gastric juice. The juices get passed from the buffering system of saliva and star corroding the teeth. There are a number of ailments that causes gastric acids to reach teeth and damage them.
Gastro oesophageal reflux is one condition where stomach acids are regurgitated following heavy meals after overeating. If this happens occasionally, the saliva can take care of it. But if when gastric acids enter oral cavity during sleep, the saliva is not enough to control acidic activity on teeth and corrosion takes place, because in sleeping state, the lower molars are in in constant touch with acids. Obesity or pregnancy brings on pressure on abdomen which increases reflux activity in individuals.
Bulimia is another condition where individual opts to vomit the food taken to keep a desired weight. This ailment is common among females of 18 to 35 years of age. In this group of people who are suffering from bulimia, the dental erosion is found to be 90 percent. In bulimic people the front teeth get eroded first because gastric juices are forced through front teeth.
In chronic alcoholism the dental erosion occurs because of frequent vomiting and regurgitation. Front as well as back teeth are affected by chronic alcoholism.
Because of the weight of the foetus, the intra-abdominal pressure increases resulting in frequent reflux. But since this is not chronic, it does not result in serious erosion.
Extrinsic causes of dental erosion
These causes result from the lifestyle of individuals, and environmental or occupational factors that expose teeth to acids.
Acidic beverages are the most common outside reason for teeth erosion in US and many other developed countries. Sports drinks, fruit juices and aerated drinks have very low pH value which makes it a high-risk factor for dental erosion. A major chunk of dietary acids come from soft drinks which are very commonly consumed at meal times and between meals.
Individuals who work out a lot, get dehydrated and their saliva production is less than required. In such a case, the risk of erosion of teeth gets doubled.
Industrial or occupational risk
In an industry where airborne acidic particles are more, the factory workers are at an increased risk of getting teeth erosion. In swimming pools, where pH level is low, the workers get more erosion of teeth than normal.
Prevention of dental erosion
The most important factor that can be controlled by individual is lifestyle and dietary changes.
Dental erosion is irreversible so what dental health professionals can do at the most is to halt the process of erosion.
Milk and milk products have been found to protect teeth against erosion. Milk has phosphate and calcium content which helps in containing acids from eroding dental tissues. Fluoride treatment also helps in contain the process of erosion of teeth.
General guidelines for people with dental erosion
- Avoid acidic beverages and holding them in mouth for long, so as not to bathe the teeth in the beverage.
- Drink water and rinse mouth with water after having any drink.
- Rinse mouth with soda bicarbonate after vomiting
- Chewing gum increases saliva. Saliva helps in stopping acidic juices to work on teeth, by allowing you to swallow saliva while chewing along with acids in the mouth
- Drink milk along with acidic meals and drinks to neutralize the acid in the drink.
- Drink one glass of water before breakfast.
- Avoid having drinks between meals.
- Drink fruit juices with straw to avoid the teeth coming in contact with acids in the drink.
- Stay hydrated.
- Acids make teeth softened so wait for an hour before brushing your teeth after and acidic or a heavy meal to stop erosion with toothbrush.
- Even after vomiting wait for an hour before brushing your teeth.
- Use tooth mousse before consuming acidic drink.
- Fluoride toothpaste helps in strengthening teeth.
- Seek medical advice for the ailments like bulimia and gastro intestinal disorder to stop erosion of teeth.
Regular visits to dentists will help in diagnosing and preventing dental erosion.