Patients often ask the team here at Smile Store about excess wear on the teeth and wonder what they can do to prevent it.
A certain amount of wear and tear to your teeth is a natural consequence of ageing, but it can be greatly accelerated by food and drink choices, as well as poor dental hygiene.
Wear and Tear to your Teeth
Damage is quite noticeable on the cutting surface of the tooth – the part you use to bite down into your food. When a vet wants to confirm the age of a horse, he will check its teeth for wear – human beings are no different! We use our teeth every day, so normal tooth wear is a progressive loss of the tooth’s surface.
However, damage to the cutting edge of the tooth such as fractures, unevenness or little bits missing breaks is not normal, and you should pay a visit to our office to get your current problem fixed and more importantly, learn how to prevent it in the future.
Increased tooth wearing can happen without any specific trauma or decay, and it has a lot to do with what you eat and drink, and how you take care of your teeth on a daily basis.
Enamel is the white, shiny surface layer of the tooth. As it starts to wear away, the underlying layer called Dentine becomes more exposed. It’s more yellow in colour, and once you understand what causes tooth wear you’ll be able to slow down the progression..
The Three Main Causes of Tooth Wear
The enamel on your teeth is eroded by acids and chemicals, even without any bacteria being involved. The primary culprits for tooth erosion are carbonated drinks, and fruit juices with high levels of acidity.
Even plain sparkling water will erode your teeth, as the chemicals used to make drinks “fizzy” has a damaging effect on the tooth surface.
Fruit juice, although non-carbonated, has a natural high level of sugar – even ‘pure’ fruit juice. It’s one of the reasons doctors and dentists tell you to water down fruit juice for children to a 50/50 mix, and if you want to avoid long term damage of your own teeth but drink a lot of juice, you would be well advised to water down your juices too.
Acid and or/chemicals in drinks are ‘outside’ causes of erosion, but did you know you may be damaging your teeth from the inside?
People who suffer with persistent heartburn may have a gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD), where hydrochloric acid that should stay in the stomach makes a painful and unwelcome appearance at the back of the throat.
This digestive acid is very strong; designed to break down stomach contents, and will do terrible damage if it comes up the oesophagus into the throat and mouth.
People who suffer from eating disorders such as bulimia bring those acids into their mouth when they purge by throwing up – in fact any time you vomit you should immediately rinse your mouth very thoroughly to wash away the acids that have been brought into contact with your teeth.
Certain medications or chronic conditions can cause ‘dry mouth’, which has a negative impact on your natural saliva flow. Saliva plays a key role in sluicing away acids, so if the saliva flow is poor it will lead to an unnaturally high acidity level in the mouth that makes your teeth vulnerable to accelerated erosion.
People who suffer from ‘bruxism’, the night time grinding of teeth, or who clench their teeth during the day as a habit, will notice the signs of attrition quickly as damage to the biting surface of the teeth becomes obvious.
Your Smile Store dentist will certainly notice it, as tiny fragments of the teeth will be missing and the cutting surface uneven.
The first method of defence is to get fitted for a night guard, a thin plastic tray that is custom-made for your teeth. You slip it into your mouth as you go to bed and it will protect your teeth from any further damage as you grind them unconsciously in your sleep.
Daytime clenching needs a more conscious effort to stop; there are several ways to tackle it including mindfulness and certain exercises you can do with your jaw and tongue to stop the clenching habit.
Eating a very fibrous diet can also be tough on teeth and lead to attrition, so ask your dentist’s advice the next time you come to Smile Store for a check-up.
Abrasion is most often caused by some kind of repetitive mechanical action that wears away your tooth enamel.
Incorrect tooth brushing technique is a common cause, as it leads to a kind of ‘notching’ at the point where the crown and the root of the tooth meet. The Dental Hygienist at Smile Store sees this kind of problem all the time, and she can show you in a matter of moments how to adopt the correct brushing technique to stop the abrasion.
If you do silly things with your teeth like trying to open bottles, you’re asking for trouble. Don’t use your teeth for anything other than chewing and biting – food! Also, anyone with tongue piercings may find their jewelry hits against the teeth when they eat or speak, which can also cause abrasion.
How to Slow Down Wear and Tear to your Teeth
- Try to eliminate all carbonated drinks.
- Water down fruit juice, and avoid brushing your teeth for at least 20 minutes after consuming either carbonated beverages or fruit juice, as the acid softens the enamel and makes it much more vulnerable to damage from brushing.
- Clenching and grinding need immediate intervention – let Smile Store fit you for a night guard and give you tips on how to stop clenching by day. We can also bond and repair any damage you’ve already done.
- Abrasion can be reduced by adopting a correct toothbrushing technique. Our Dental Hygienist will show you the best way to brush; the right toothbrush for you and the best combination of toothpaste and mouthwash for your teeth. There are toothpastes available that will help build up the enamel again.
- Don’t use your teeth to open bottles, hold pins/nails, or indeed for anything other than food!
If you have any concerns about wear to your teeth, you can book an appointment with Smile Store – Your Local Dental Specialists by calling 021 432 0004!