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Tooth erosion

Tooth erosion is the loss of enamel due to acid attack. The enamel is the hard, protective outer layer of the tooth. It protects the sensitive dentine underneath. Erosion of the enamel exposes the dentine leading to sensitivity and pain.

What are the signs of tooth erosion?

Erosion often occurs as hollows in the teeth and a general wearing of the biting edges and tooth surface. This exposes the dentine underneath, which is darker than the enamel and yellow. Due to the dentine's sensitivity, your teeth can become more sensitive to cold and hot or acidic drinks and foods.

What causes tooth erosion?

Whenever you eat something acidic, your enamel becomes softer for a short time and also loses minerals. However, your saliva will slowly neutralise the acidity in your mouth to restore the natural balance. If the acid attack occurs frequently, your mouth may not have a chance to recover, and you will brush away small parts of the enamel. Over time, you lose your teeth' surface.

Can any medical condition cause tooth erosion?

Bulimia which makes patients stuck on losing weight, can cause tooth erosion. Since the vomit has high acid levels, this can damage the enamel.

Acid from the stomach can come into the mouth, a condition called gastro-oesophageal reflux. People with a hiatus hernia, problems with the oesophagus, or who drink excess alcohol experience dental erosion resulting from vomiting.

Can my diet prevent tooth erosion?

Acidic drinks and foods can cause erosion. The acidity of a food depends on its pH value, as anything with a pH below 5.5 is highly acidic and can damage the teeth.

Sodas, carbonated drinks, pops, and fizzy drinks can also cause erosion. Diet brands of beverages and drinks are also harmful, including flavoured fizzy water can damage your teeth when taken in large amounts because they contain weak acids that are harmful to the teeth.

Acidic drinks and foods, like fruit drinks and fruits, especially citrus fruits such as orange and lemon, contain natural acids that can harm the teeth, particularly when taken often.

Drinks that are fizzy and contain acidic fruits also cause tooth erosion. Plain water is the best drink for your teeth, and drinking milk can also neutralise the effect of acids in your mouth.

Are sports drinks safe for the teeth?

Sports drinks usually contain ingredients that contribute to tooth erosion and decay. However, athletes need to avoid dehydration which can lead to bad breath and dry mouth.

How can I prevent tooth erosion?

You can take several steps to prevent tooth erosion. They include:

  • Drink quickly without swishing or holding the drink in your mouth. Alternatively, use a straw to ensure drinks go to the back of your mouth without long contact with the teeth.
  • Finish your meals with milk or cheese to neutralise the acid in your mouth
  • Wait at least an hour after drinking or eating anything acidic before brushing your teeth. This will give your teeth time to build the mineral content back.
  • Brush your teeth at night before bed at least once in the day using fluoride toothpaste and a small-headed toothbrush with soft to medium bristles.
  • Children up to age three should use toothpaste with at least 1000 ppm (parts per million) of fluoride. Children above three to adults should use toothpaste with 1350 – 1500ppm fluoride levels.
  • Chew sugar-free gum after eating to help produce more saliva to combat the effect of acid in your mouth after eating.
  • Spit out instead of rinsing after brushing your teeth to preserve the fluoride in your mouth for a longer time.

Do I need other products?

In addition to fluoride toothpaste, your dental professional may recommend fluoride-containing mouthwash and fluoride varnish at least every six months. You may need toothpaste with more fluoride.

How can I treat tooth erosion?

Tooth erosion doesn't always need treatment. Regular check-ups and advice from your dentist can prevent further enamel erosion. If treatment is necessary, it focuses on protecting the enamel and dentine to prevent sensitivity.

Bonding a filling to the tooth can repair the damage, but severe cases may require fitting a veneer.

How much is tooth erosion treatment?

The cost varies, depending on the treatment needed. You should discuss your tooth erosion treatment options with your dentist and get a written estimate before your treatment.

If you need treatment for tooth erosion or a dental exam to check for tooth erosion, visit McKennell Dental Practice at 21 Churton Street London SW1V 2LY, or contact us at 020 7834 8802 to book an appointment.