The outer layer of each tooth is covered by a strong and hard substance called the enamel. It is the hardest substance in the human body and its main job is to prevent tooth decay. Enamel is strong but it can be damaged by acidic foods or drinks over time. The enamel of the tooth can be more susceptible to tooth decay and other dental problems. The damage and loss of enamel is called dental erosion.
Where does the acid that causes dental erosion come from?
Some of the common sources of acids associated with dental erosion:
1. Acidic Foods and Beverages
· Eating acidic fruits such as lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges can demineralize the tooth enamel;
· Drinking soda, sports drinks and fruit juices can cause dental erosion.
2. Acid Reflux is also known as GERD (gastroesophageal acid reflux disease)
· Stomach acid regurgitates into the mouth and contacts the teeth;
· People with untreated acid reflux for a long time may be at risk for dental erosion.
· Repeated vomiting over a period of time;
· Bulimia is an eating disorder: intentional vomiting to maintain a desired body weight. The forceful expulsion of stomach acids onto the front teeth during vomiting may cause damage to the enamel;
-morning sickness, nausea
-acid is left in an expecting mother’s mouth and can cause damage to the enamel.
Signs of Dental Erosion
1. Tooth Discoloration
· Loss of enamel exposes dentin;
· Teeth develop more of a yellow tinge.
2. Tooth appearance
· Front teeth may appear to be shorter and start to look yellow;
· Teeth may appear thinner and look transparent.
3. Tooth pain and sensitivity
· Teeth are sensitive to temperature: hot and cold foods and drinks;
· Teeth are sensitive to sweet and sour foods;
· May experience sharp tooth pain when teeth are touched or temperature in the mouth changes to hot or cold.
What can you do?
Loss of enamel is irreversible. These are some of the steps you can do to prevent and stop dental erosion:
· Drink water or milk while eating;
· Avoid eating or drinking acidic foods or beverages;
· If you drink acidic beverages, use a straw place behind your front teeth, and don’t swish the liquid around or hold it in your mouth;
· Rinse your mouth with water or milk after vomiting, eating acidic food, or drinking acidic beverages;
· Wait at least 1 hour before brushing your teeth after vomiting, eating acidic food, or drinking acidic beverages;
· Chew sugar-free gum can increase saliva flow, which helps to remove acid;
· Use a soft bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste when you brush your teeth;
· See your dentist for regular dental checkup and check for signs of dental erosion;
· Look for products that carry the ADA Seal of Acceptance to help prevent or reduce enamel erosion.
Dr. Anna Lee is a general & cosmetic dentist in Glendora, CA. She is experienced in all phases of dentistry. She treats patients of all ages. If you notice any signs of tooth discoloration and/or sensitivity, call our office for a dental checkup at 626-335-5114 or visit us at www.annaleedds.com.