Tooth erosion is a serious danger to your teeth. Unlike cavities, which are decay at specific parts of certain teeth, tooth erosion can impact several, most, or all of your teeth at once, depending on the source. And while cavities can be treated with a simple filling, you might need a full mouth reconstruction after the damage caused by tooth erosion.
The first step in treating tooth erosion is finding the cause of the erosion. Once we’ve identified the cause, we can stop the damage and consider plans for making your smile healthy, functional, and beautiful again.
An Acidic Mouth
Your saliva is supposed to protect your teeth from acid. It should be neutral or slightly alkaline, but in some situations your saliva can be acidified.
Most of the time, saliva turns acid when there’s not enough of it to neutralize acid sources in the mouth. Maybe you have low saliva levels naturally. But more often, the cause is something that causes dry mouth, such as medications or dehydration. Mouth breathing can also cause your mouth to turn acidic overnight, leading to significant erosion of your teeth.
Some endurance athletes regularly make their mouth acidic. Hard training can dry the mouth, and the consumption of high-sugar fuel foods and acidic sports beverages combine to make a very destructive environment for your teeth.
Discovering why your mouth is acidic can help stop damage. In some cases, you may need to rinse with artificial saliva replacement or take medication that can improve saliva production.
Stomach acid can also cause your mouth to turn acidic, eroding your teeth. If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach acid is constantly bubbling up into your mouth, and it can create an acidic environment, especially at the back of your mouth. Since these teeth aren’t highly visible, you might not notice the damage until the teeth start to hurt or when they crack under the force of chewing or bruxism.
Another way that stomach acid gets into the mouth is purging behavior related to eating disorders like bulimia nervosa. In this case, the acid hits the back of teeth first, causing the worst damage there. This can also be hard to see, although erosion around the sides of teeth, and receding gums can be very visible markers of damage.
In both these cases, treating the cause of stomach acid can stop future damage.
Acidic Foods and Beverages
Acid is common in many foods, and is included for many reasons, such as for the taste or as a preservative. But any food or drink with a pH of 5 or less will lead to tooth erosion, and the lower the pH, the more erosion, with each point of pH representing 10 times more acidity. You can see the pH of many common drinks in the US here. Consuming any erosive drink on a regular basis will damage your teeth. When you consume these drinks, use a straw to limit contact with your teeth. And wash your teeth with water after you finish.
Some foods are also very acidic. Watch out for anything made with vinegar or with highly acidic fruits like oranges, plums, and cranberries.
Limiting acidic foods in your diet and following them with water or a buffering beverage like milk can protect your teeth from erosion.
Are Your Teeth Eroded?
If your teeth have been heavily damaged by erosion, you may be unhappy with their appearance, as well as discomfort related to the damage. You may also be experiencing teeth that are cracking on a regular basis. You might think there’s nothing that can be done for your smile.
But the truth is that tooth erosion can be repaired to give you a healthy, functional smile again. Porcelain crowns can give support to damaged teeth and give your teeth an attractive appearance again. Plus, they’re highly resistant to acid.