Tooth Wear

March 31, 2023

By Dr. Fass

As we live longer, we continue to use, and potentially wear out, our teeth. There are a number of different forces at work, most under our control. Once identified, it’s important that you and your dental team have a plan to control any damage over the longer term.

Abrasion is the mechanical wear of teeth caused by grit and mechanical forces. The most common reason is overuse of toothpaste in combination with aggressive brushing. You only need a small “pea-sized “ amount of toothpaste and your brushing technique needs to be a gentle wiggling motion rather than a vigorous horizontal scrubbing.

GERD or GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease occurs when stomach acid repeatedly flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach (esophagus). This can irritate the lining of the esophagus causing “heartburn” type symptoms. When the acid reaches the mouth it can begin to weaken and eventually dissolve tooth structure.

Bruxism is the condition of habitual grinding of the teeth. It may be during the day, but is most common while sleeping. Stress may contribute to this situation, as well as irregularities in the bite. A mouthguard is often the first line of defense when bruxism is diagnosed, but smoothing of bite inconsistencies may also be suggested.

Clenching, like bruxism, may be during the night or day. Treatment is similar and both may involve wearing of an appliance when the activity is noticed, such as driving, working, etc.

Acidic beverages have been documented to potentiate enamel and dentin weakening. Neutral pH is 7, strong acid is 1, and strong base is 14. Anything with a pH below 5.5 can do harm to teeth. Coffee is right about that 5.5 level and can be neutralized with a little milk. Sodas and sports drinks tend to be in the 2.5-3.0 range. These are very harmful if consumed consistently over the course of a day.

Acidic foods are likewise harmful if exposure is extended. Citric fruits and juices are the obvious ones. Tomatoes and tomato products are also acidic, as are foods containing vinegar (acetic acid to you chemists).

Genetic factors are out of our control but, when identified, allow the individual to take some further precautions to prevent damage.

This article was published on 03-31-2023 in The Altamont Enterprise.