What is tooth wear – and should I be worried?


What is tooth wear – and should I be worried?

September 10, 2020 5:27 pm Published by

These days, most of us are aware of tooth decay and the basic steps in how to look after our teeth. However, with healthy adult teeth lasting for longer and longer, tooth wear is something that can become a problem. This has a few different causes, and it can affect the young and old in different ways.

What is tooth wear?

Tooth wear means that tooth substance has been ‘lost’ in one way or another. Let’s explain. Your teeth are covered by a tough coating of enamel, which acts like a defence shield for the sensitive pulp and nerve inside.

A little bit of erosion is normal for teeth, and in fact, scientific studies say that enamel is lost vertically at the rate of 0.02 to 0.04 mm per year.
Your teeth do a great job of compensating for this, by replenishing mineral stocks all by themselves, using fluoride from your toothpaste, and other things that you eat and drink.

However, sometimes this enamel can become worn down at a faster rate, or in such a way that causes problems. There are two main ways in which this happens. One is where the tooth becomes worn down vertically from the edge, making teeth look shorter. The other form of tooth wear is from the surface working in. This means that teeth appear yellower as
the enamel thins and the underlying dentin shows through.

What causes tooth wear?

Tooth wear has three causes. One is ‘attrition’ – your teeth being in contact together too much. This could be from tooth grinding, known as bruxism.

The second is erosion, where acid literally dissolves the tooth. This acid is produced by bad bacteria in the mouth, which feed on sugar when you eat and drink. Unfortunately, this form of tooth wear is increasingly common in young people, and often sugary and processed food and soft drinks are the culprits. Sadly, eating disorders like bulimia can also cause tooth wear. This is because being sick can put stomach acid in contact with your teeth, causing erosion as well.

There’s also a third form of tooth wear known as ‘tooth abrasion’. This is where something external causes tooth loss, such as holding a smoking pipe between the teeth, biting your nails – or even overly-zealous tooth brushing!

Does this affect me?

If you have tooth wear, you could experience more sensitivity when eating and drinking, you might have difficulty chewing, or your teeth might feel very ‘sharp’. Alternatively, sometimes the impact can just be a visual one – when worn down vertically over time, teeth can appear shorter. So you might just dislike the way your teeth appear in the mirror.

What can I do about it?

The first move is to see your dentist at Drs. Nicolas & Asp, who can help advise if you have tooth wear, and how advanced it is. Together you can then decide the right course of treatment. Mild tooth wear or tooth abrasion might not need to be treated at all, and your dentist might just advise something to help prevent further damage. This could be a splint or mouth guard, if you are a tooth grinder, to prevent damage done when you are sleeping.

If there is more damage, then there are other options. Your dentist might advise composite restorations – fillings that replace the tooth surface that has been lost. These last up to seven years, and don’t cause any damage to the natural tooth underneath. With more severe damage, veneers or crowns might be more appropriate. The benefit of these is that they look like a completely new tooth – so extensive damage can simply be covered over entirely.

There are plenty of solutions to tooth wear – so ask your dentist at Drs. Nicolas & Asp for help.

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