There are quite a few oral health complications that are irreversible, though most of them can be prevented, delayed, or treated. Tooth erosion is one such condition that, when left untreated, can cause patients severe pain and can eventually lead to tooth loss. Fortunately, there are several ways to avoid tooth erosion, mitigate its effects, and repair or replace damaged or missing teeth. Dr. Braverman and his staff can provide personalized oral care for patients at any stage of tooth erosion, restoring the functionality and appearance of the patient’s mouth and teeth.
Enamel and its Function
Enamel – the hardest substance in the human body – is the translucent covering on every tooth. Enamel protects teeth from the physical damage associated with daily usage such as chewing, biting, grinding, and crunching. Enamel also protects from chemicals and extreme temperatures. Enamel does not have living cells, so it cannot regenerate once it is cracked or chipped.
Factors That Trigger Enamel Erosion
Although the human body cannot restore the enamel on its own, most factors that begin or hasten enamel erosion can be avoided or mitigated through healthy lifestyle choices.
Easily preventable factors include:
- Soft drinks: Soft drinks threaten enamel directly due to their acidic content. They also damage teeth indirectly because the sugars in sodas promote bacterial growth.
- Fruit beverages: Many fruit beverages are as acidic as sodas. Some fruit beverages are more acidic than battery acid.
- Starches: Starchy foods frequently leave food particles between teeth. The starchy food particles allow bacteria to thrive and spread, especially when the patient does not apply oral health care to remove the food particles.
- Sour foods: The acids that give foods their sour flavoring also wear away enamel.
- Alcohol: Excessive alcohol usage inflicts several health complications on a patient. One of the negative consequences of excessive alcohol usage is vomiting, which creates a hostile oral environment that can ruin teeth.
Factors that may be difficult to avoid – yet still possible to be mitigated – include:
- Acid reflux disease: This gastrointestinal disorder causes the patient to regurgitate stomach acid, severely damaging enamel, especially with consistent exposure.
- Dry mouth: Saliva acts as a natural defense mechanism, washing away bacteria and food particles and regulating the mouth’s pH levels. A dry mouth deprives the mouth of saliva, increasing the chances of damage due to bacteria and dietary acids.
- Genetics: Many genetically inherited medical conditions can complicate a patient’s oral health, including gastrointestinal diseases that render the patient’s mouth acidic.
- Medications: Both prescription medications and over-the-counter medications have side effects. Oral medications can expose the patient’s teeth to hostile oral environments that promote enamel erosion.
- Physical damage: Accidental injuries – such as sports injuries or any external impact – and medical conditions such as bruxism can cause complications ranging from wearing down teeth to severe chips and cracks.
Symptoms of Tooth Enamel Erosion
Enamel erosion may start as an asymptomatic condition, but the pain and discomfort associated with enamel erosion will make it difficult to ignore. Symptoms of enamel erosion include:
- Sensitivity: Enamel protects teeth from chemicals and extreme temperatures. Patients who feel pain after eating something acidic, hot, or cold likely have some form of enamel erosion. Severe enamel loss can give patients pain while eating sugary foods.
- Discoloration: Enamel is transparent, and dentin gives teeth their white color. Off-white coloration indicates that the enamel is gone and that the tooth is under attack from bacteria or acids.
- Uneven surfaces: Enamel erosion causes the surface of the teeth to become uneven, jagged, and rough.
Preventing Enamel Erosion
Most factors that trigger enamel erosion can be either avoided or mitigated by the patient’s behaviors and actions. Preventative measures include:
- Dietary modifications: Reducing or removing harmful foods from a patient’s diet can significantly improve oral health. Acidic foods and beverages, starchy foods, sour foods, and sugary foods should be limited or removed from a patient’s diet entirely. These foods can easily be replaced with foods that promote oral health instead of threatening it.
- Mitigate acidic meals: Finishing a meal with cheese can lower the impact of an acidic meal or snack. Rinsing with pH-neutral water after an acidic meal and applying oral care an hour after a meal can lower the risk of acidic damage even further. Note that brushing immediately after an acidic meal can damage enamel.
- Drink more water: In addition to being a healthier choice than sodas and fruit juices, water can reduce the instances of dry mouth. Rinsing with pH-neutral water after snacks and meals can also reduce acids in the mouth and dislodge some food particles between teeth.
- Oral health care: Brushing twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush, when combined with rinsing with alcohol-free mouthwashes, are effective ways for patients to protect their teeth. Routine dental visits – including professional cleanings and oral exams – can remove plaque and other threats that home oral health care cannot treat.
Treating Tooth Erosion
Since enamel is non-living, it cannot be replaced. However, there are dental options to repair or replace damaged teeth, including:
- Veneers: Veneers are coverings that are placed on damaged or discolored teeth. Though veneers are often used for cosmetic issues, they can also boost the strength and resilience of the tooth.
- Dental implants: One method to replacing an extracted or knocked-out tooth is with a dental implant. This permanent installation involves two components: an implant that is placed on the patient’s jawbone, and the crown which serves as the tooth replacement.
- Inlays and onlays: Inlays and onlays are a type of filling that covers the surface of a damaged tooth. Inlays and onlays are more discrete than traditional fillings since they more closely match the original tooth color.
- Dental contouring: Dental contouring involves reshaping teeth by removing some of the tooth’s surface area. Dental contouring can treat chipped and cracked teeth.
- Dental bonding: Dental bonding involves covering the tooth with resin. In addition to protecting the tooth, dental bonding can improve the aesthetics of a damaged or discolored tooth.
- Crowns and bridges: Crowns completely cover a tooth; crowns are commonly applied after root canals, but they can also protect heavily damaged teeth. Bridges can replace missing teeth and come in different varieties to accommodate patients with varying oral health conditions.
- Partial and full dentures: Patients who have lost arches of teeth, most or all of their teeth can get dentures to replace their missing teeth. Whereas the dentures are not as strong as natural teeth, they prevent health complications associated with empty tooth sockets.
Dr. Braverman provides top-tier dental services to residents of New York City. Dr. Braverman has extensive experience with prosthetic dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, and orthodontics. Dr. Braverman and his staff pride themselves on creating a comfortable environment as they give patients long-lasting, wonderful smiles. Please feel free to contact our office by filling out our online form, or calling us at (212) 688-3838.