Dental attrition is a type of tooth wear caused by tooth-to-tooth contact, resulting in loss of tooth tissue, usually starting at the incisal or occlusal surfaces. Tooth wear is a physiological process and is commonly seen as a normal part of aging. Advanced and excessive wear and tooth surface loss can be defined as pathological in nature, requiring intervention by a dental practitioner. The pathological wear of the tooth surface can be caused by bruxism, which is clenching and grinding of the teeth. If the attrition is severe, the enamel can be completely worn away leaving underlying dentin exposed, resulting in an increased risk of dental caries and dentin hypersensitivity. It is best to identify pathological attrition at an early stage to prevent unnecessary loss of tooth structure as enamel does not regenerate
Patient Wearing Occlusal Splint
When a diagnosis of bruxism has been confirmed, it is recommended that the patient buy a full-coverage acrylic occlusal splint, such as a Michigan Splint or Tanner appliance, to prevent further bruxism. Patients must be monitored closely, with clinical photographs 6–12 monthly to evaluate if the tooth surface loss is being prevented.
Cosmetic or functional intervention may be required if tooth surface loss is pathological or if there has been advanced loss of tooth structure. The first stage of treatment involves managing any associated conditions, such as fractured teeth or sharp cusps or incisal edges. These can be resolved by restoring and polishing sharp cusps. Then, desensitizing agents such as topical fluoride varnishes can be applied, and at home desensitising toothpastes recommended. Many restorative options have been proposed, such as direct composite restorations, bonded cast metal restorations, removable partial dentures, orthodontic treatment, crown lengthening procedures and protective splints. The decision to restore the dentition depends on the wants and needs of the patient, the severity of tooth surface loss and whether tooth surface loss is active. The use of adhesive materials to replace lost tooth structure can be performed as a conservative and cost-effective approach before a more permanent solution of crowns or veneers is considered.
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