If you care for them well, your adult teeth should be lifelong companions. But if you’ve experienced teeth abrasion, you understand how much grief your teeth can give you through sensitivity and pain. The secret is, our teeth can best take care of us when we care for them. It’s easy to get into bad habits that cause tooth abrasion, but understanding abrasion of tooth is key to preventing and treating it. In this article, we’ll discuss tooth abrasion red flags, causes, effects, treatments, and prevention methods.
The Truth about Tooth Wear
Tooth wear happens when the enamel, your teeth’s protective shield, wears away. Remember, once enamel wears away, it cannot repair itself.
To show you where enamel comes into the tooth’s anatomy, teeth have pulp (nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues) at the center covered by dentine (hard tissue) and enamel, which protect the tooth’s delicate interiors.
Tooth wear comes in three basic forms:
1. Dental erosion:
When acids from the digestive tract or foods eat away at tooth enamel or dentine, it's called dental erosion. Caused by dietary choices such as consuming acidic foods, regurgitation due to conditions like acid reflux disease or eating disorders, and environmental factors such as exposure to acidic fumes, dental erosion weakens a tooth's protective outer coat, leaving it more vulnerable to tooth decay and other painful issues. Dental erosion is most commonly found on the rear of the upper teeth, as this is where the tongue makes contact with the teeth.
2. Dental attrition:
Dental attrition refers to the damage done by the basic mechanics of tooth-to-tooth contact. The pressure and friction from routine chewing, a misaligned bite, or the type of persistent teeth grinding (bruxism) all cause tooth surfaces to wear.
3. Dental abrasion:
Dental abrasion is another mishap for your teeth. Here, friction from foreign materials damages tooth enamel. Causes of abrasion can include overly forceful brushing, using a brush with hard bristles, nail-biting, and pipe-smoking. We’ll discuss causes more below.
What is dental abrasion?
Causes of Tooth Abrasion
While proper tooth brushing is an essential tool in your oral health care toolbox, you can have too much of a good thing. Aggressively brushing teeth by using too much pressure, abrasive toothpastes, or hard-bristled toothbrushes can actually damage tooth and gum tissues and bring toothbrush abrasion.
Overenthusiastic tooth brushing isn't the only potential cause of dental abrasion. Again, routinely rubbing any foreign material against your teeth can put you at risk. That means using toothpicks, mouthing at jewelry, chewing on pens, biting your nails, or nibbling on abrasive foods like seeds or nuts can also cause issues. Partial dentures, retainers, and similar oral hygiene appliances can also trigger abrasion issues, especially if they don't fit well.
How does dental attrition fit into the picture? Abrasion is the result of repeated contact between a tooth and something hard, like teeth. So, when two or more teeth come together, even with regular chewing with an ideal bite, some abrasion will occur. However, bigger problems arise when your bite is out of alignment, often causing more friction in places less prepared for it.
Likewise, bruxism can speed tooth wear. With its teeth grinding and jaw clenching, the condition increases the wear and tear a tooth experiences. Without treatment, bruxism suffers are likely to see more abrasion in less time.
The Effects of Tooth Abrasion
Over time, the behaviors that cause tooth abrasion can wear away the enamel and drive gum tissue to retreat. This can lead to notches and uneven places on the tooth surface and create a more attractive environment for bacteria by providing it with more spaces to hide. To make matters worse, eliminating the enamel exposes the vulnerable inner tissues of the teeth. This can cause pain and tooth sensitivity.
Red Flags for Tooth Wear Troubles
One unmistakable sign of tooth abrasion is a diagnosis from your dentist. However, other red flags can be more subtle. If you experience any of the following, you might want to ask about dental abrasion on your next visit to the dentist:
Ridges on the Tooth Surface:
Repeated rubbing against the tooth can cause uneven enamel wear, creating ridges and pits on the surface of teeth.
As the protective outer layer of enamel fades away, the inner tissues are exposed, increasing your teeth’s sensitivity to temperature or pressure.
Increased Tooth Decay:
The uneven surfaces caused by abrasion make it easier for bacteria to cling to your teeth and harder for you to thoroughly remove it when you brush and floss. As bacteria lingers, the risk of tooth decay and cavities increases. If left unchecked, it can even lead to tooth loss.
Exposing Teeth to Acids:
Acid reflux, frequent vomiting, eating acidic foods or drinking acidic fruit juices exposes your teeth to acids that eat away at the teeth and cause dental erosion. They also weaken the enamel, which leaves it more susceptible to abrasion.
People who suffer from bruxism unconsciously clench their jaws and grind their teeth. This can put enormous pressure on tooth surfaces, so anyone who deals with teeth grinding should look out for tooth attrition and abrasion.
Related Article: What Is Daytime Bruxism?
Treating Tooth Wear
Treating tooth wear can be tricky. The first step is identifying its cause and then taking any necessary steps to prevent additional damage. Depending on the cause, this can include changing your toothbrush or toothpaste, or wearing a night guard. Next, the focus turns to strengthening the teeth and restoring the teeth’s bite surfaces and appearance. The best solution depends on your particular circumstances. It might involve fluoride treatments, fillings, crowns or veneers.
Preventing Tooth Abrasion and Attrition
Tooth enamel doesn't regenerate. That makes preventing tooth wear important. Fortunately, there are several strategies that dentist encourage patients to use to prevent tooth attrition and abrasion:
Brush Up on Tooth Brushing:
When it comes to tooth brushing, too soft may not get your teeth clean, but too hard can cause real damage. To get it just right, be mindful when selecting your toothbrush and toothpaste. Avoid hard bristles or overly aggressive toothpastes. Then, learn proper brushing techniques. Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and use gentle, short strokes. In addition, be kind to your mouth when flossing.
Break Bad Habits:
Behaviors like chewing on pens, biting your fingernails, and digging deep with toothpicks aren't just annoying. They're harmful, so find a way to break them.
The stress caused by teeth grinding can do serious damage. To protect your enamel, treat your bruxism. Dental night guards are a popular option because they're simple, effective, and user-friendly. Plus, they establish a physical barrier that prevents contact between teeth, protecting them from abrasion and other damage.
Understanding Tooth Abrasion
Now that you understand the different kinds of tooth wear and the causes, symptoms, and treatments for tooth abrasion, you can protect those pearly whites. Remember, be careful of how you brush, and kick those nail-biting, pen-chewing habits. Above all, call your dentist if you experience any red flags for tooth abrasion — tooth sensitivity decay, ridges on your teeth, bruxism, or exposure to acids.
If you decide to move forward with a dental night guard, Pro Teeth Guard offers custom-fit mouthguards online for an affordable price. Our night guards are made in a professional dental lab using the same materials and process as a night guard from the dentist.