In the age of social media, selfie sticks, and countless smiles being uploaded, we certainly appreciate our teeth and how much they do for our smiles. But we often don’t think about how much they contribute to our oral health, or even how much our oral health impacts us, until we suffer from a toothache or sensitivity.
How Teeth Contribute to Oral Health
The truth is our teeth are incredibly important because they are almost always at work. Sure, everyone understands that they are essential when it comes to chewing, but they also play a major role in speaking, keeping our facial muscles strong, jawbone healthy, and preventing harmful bacteria from attacking our gums!
These varied roles that our teeth play are essential for our oral health, but all that work can wear down even the toughest tooth.
A very common dental issue known as “worn teeth” affects thousands each year. If you have this condition and allow it to continue without treatment, it can pose a threat to one or more teeth and your overall oral health.
Worn Teeth? What Is That?
Worn teeth, tooth erosion, or simply “wear and tear” are terms for excessive damage to the surface of your tooth. The hard, white surface of your tooth is called enamel, and damage to it is concerning because it does not grow back. With all the hard work your teeth are putting in on a day-to-day basis, we want to preserve the enamel that protects your tooth!
What Causes Tooth Attrition and Erosion?
Attrition is wear caused by tooth to tooth contact, whereas erosion is damage caused by a non-tooth substance—e.g. acid exposure or gravelly food.
In the past, our diets were made up of foods that were much grittier and could drastically damage our teeth. Thankfully, we don’t need to worry too much about that in the modern era, which narrows the causes to more behavioral culprits. Such as:
- Bruxism: The medical term for habitual teeth grinding or gnashing. With the unconscious grinding happening frequently throughout the day, undue wear and tear can occur on your teeth and cause the enamel to erode.
- Stress: Related to bruxism, stress can cause you to unconsciously find an outlet such as clenching a fist or your jaw. In the latter instance, clenching your jaw puts intense pressure on your teeth.
- Xerostomia: Commonly known as dry mouth, xerostomia occurs when there is insufficient saliva produced. Saliva production assists in protecting your enamel by preventing tooth decay and washing away bacteria or dental debris.
- Excessive Citrus Exposure: Some folks love oranges, lemons, or limes so much that they grind daily on the acidic pulps or hold sections of the fruits against their teeth. This is a great way to create erosion of tooth enamel! Chew, swallow, and chase that citric acid with water to avoid a painful outcome.
It is also important to note that while modern diets have greatly reduced grittier foodstuffs that contributed to wear and tear on our ancestor’s teeth, what we eat still makes a big impact on our teeth! Food and drinks with high sugar or acidic content can weaken your teeth, so do your best to steer clear.
How To Identify Weakened Teeth
If you have been diagnosed with bruxism, TMJ, or other stress-related conditions, it may be a good idea to schedule an appointment with your dentist to discuss the possibility of tooth erosion before you start to notice the effect on your teeth.
If you haven’t been diagnosed with any such conditions and are worried that your teeth might be suffering from wear and tear, look for these common signs of tooth erosion:
- Sensitivity: If your teeth are sensitive or painful when eating certain foods with high sugar content or extreme temperatures (hot drinks or ice cream), this can be a sign that the enamel of your teeth is in the early stages of erosion.
- Exposed Dentin: Dentin is the layer of your tooth beneath your enamel, often a pale yellow color but can range from gray to black. You should not be able to see dentin. If you can, it is a sign that your enamel is eroding.
- Cupping: This is the term used when your teeth have large indentations on their surface, where you bite and chew. Excessive cupping can be a sign your teeth are weakening and a greater risk of tooth decay.
- Amelogenesis imperfecta: An unusual condition that creates weak enamel. Our doctors at Hill and Schneidmiller DDS are trained to identify this malady and provide treatment to protect teeth that are at risk.
To keep your whole mouth healthy, it’s important to take good care of your teeth. When your teeth are suffering, it can be painful, disabling, and frustrating. At Hill and Schneidmiller DDS, we can help your teeth stay strong enough to last you a lifetime.
How Can Tooth Erosion Be Treated?
The enamel of your teeth doesn’t grow back, which makes prevention key in combating tooth erosion. Maintaining a healthy dental routine that includes drinking plenty of water, daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste, and annual visits to our office will keep your teeth tough!
To become even more proactive in keeping your teeth from suffering any wear and tear, consider a consultation with a dental professional about a nightly mouthguard. If you have already noticed signs of tooth erosion (cosmetically or otherwise), schedule an appointment concerning dental bonding, the fastest way to restore your smile.
Some teeth that are sensitive can be treated without bonding, simply with a desensitizer (which takes 5 minutes) and there’s no need for anesthetic. Ask the doctor if this is right for you!
Tooth Erosion Treatment for Better Oral Health
If you are a resident of La Mesa, CA or the surrounding areas and want to keep your teeth tough and attrition- and erosion-free, then contact Hill and Schneidmiller DDS today. With over thirty years of experience, our treatments are the ones your teeth can trust!