What is Acid Wear on Teeth?
Updated: Jan 17, 2019
You may have heard this term in toothpaste commercials but may have wondered, 'what does it really mean'? If teeth were made for eating and drinking, shouldn't they be strong enough to withstand normal foodstuff?
Maybe...maybe not. For example, we often think of rocks as fairly strong substances - but with frequent contact to water - just normal water - they can wear down. Even Mount Rushmore has had some restorative work done on it! Mind you, the damage to Mount Rushmore has a lot to do with water seeping in its crevices, freezing, then thawing out - so you do get expansion and contraction forces exerted on the rocks. At the root of it though, it's still 'just water' doing some damage!
So it's not completely out of the question for teeth to wear down - from normal usage, from different food and drinks and from the expansive/contractive forces of existing metal restorations. Today, we're focusing only on acid wear on teeth, so let's begin!
What is Acid Erosion?
If you've ever needed to clear a drain pipe, you may be familiar with sulphuric acid - the idea of using an acidic substance to 'eat away' at the clog so it eventually clears. In this situation, you're using a fairly strong acid to clear away a pretty big problem. Obviously, you're not eating and drinking sulphuric acid, but exposure to more diluted acids on a more frequent basis can also - slowly but surely - 'eat away' at your teeth.
Enamel is the outermost layer on your teeth and is said to be stronger than 'regular' bones - so much so that enamel could be the hardest part of your body. Unfortunately, if you consume a lot of acidic substances, it can weaken your enamel over time by demineralize your teeth.
How do I know if I have Acid Erosion?
Like with many other dental conditions, acid wear on teeth starts with sensitivity. So at the early stages, if you're experiencing sensitivity and you consume a lot of acidic foods and beverages, it might be wise to reduce your consumption.
The next stage might be seeing cracks or chips. Keep in mind that if your dentist says you have a lot of cavities, acids could be getting into the nooks and crannies of your teeth and initiating or contributing to decay.
In the more advanced stages, you can see the yellow insides of your teeth - this is exposed dentin, which means that your enamel has worn away and you're likely experiencing a higher degree of sensitivity. It is important to note that enamel can never grow back - so it's a good idea to focus on preventative measures before these advanced stages. If there is significant acid wear on teeth though, you could ask your dentist about restorative options. For example, placing a porcelain crown will not only make it 'look pretty', but also provides a protective covering over your natural tooth.
Well, as mentioned earlier - anything acidic that comes in contact with your teeth can contribute to the slow wearing away of your enamel - think:
fruits and their juices
fermented (soured) foods - like pickles
And, the damage could worsen if your teeth are exposed to other lifestyle factors as well. For example, if you grind your teeth or if you were born with weak enamel or if you have a heavy bite. This is, by no means an extensive list, but just several of the reason why your teeth might be breaking down.
The good news is, you can do your part to either prevent acid wear on teeth altogether - or if its already started, then prevent it from getting worse. Here are some tips you can follow:
Follow up with routine cleaning and check ups at the dental office. Especially in the early stages, it will be more difficult for the untrained eye to spot wearing of teeth - so if you stick with the schedule to see our dental team, it gives us the time and opportunity to identify potential problems and advise you well in advance, what you can do about it.
Brush regularly with toothpaste that contains fluoride - because it helps to strengthen enamel.
You don't have to give up your favourite foods, but you can exercise precautions (as a disclaimer - if your diet include a lot of sweets/junk food, it is still a good idea to reduce or remove these completely!) If you drink a lot of acidic beverages, use a straw to minimize contact and don't swish the liquid in your mouth before swallowing. For the eco-friendly people - choose a reusable straw. If you eat a lot of acidic foods, have cheese at the same sitting - as it is said to neutralize the acids. You can also rinse your mouth out with plain water after eating/drinking acidic substances.
Address any other contributing factors to the wear and tear of your teeth - if you clench your jaw or grind your teeth, get a protective mouthguard. If you have metal fillings that expand and contract with hot/cold food and drinks, you might consider getting them replaced with composite fillings.
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush because the extra-scrubby hard bristles can wear away your enamel faster. While you're at it, book yourself in for an Oral Hygiene Instruction appointment - to make sure to learn safe brushing/flossing techniques.
Drink more water throughout the day so it helps to 'wash away' extra food debris particles.
Acid wear on teeth is irreversible, so it's a good idea to care for your teeth while you still have them. But, if it's 'too late' for you and you can see that the damage is already there - fear not because dental technology is always progressing and even in this day and age, there are multiple options for you to choose from - on how to restore or preserve what you have. Contact our office at (416) 228-8866 or email us and speak to our dental team - we're always happy to help.