There are a lot of ways that tooth enamel (hardest substance in the body) can wear off – decay and erosion being the most common. While decay is an infectious process with bacteria playing a significant role, erosion is nowhere associated with bacteria. The tooth gets ‘eroded’ in small amounts with the various food substances that you eat. These include the sodas that wash down the burgers and pizzas, the various sports drinks that are used to boost performance, the lime and oranges that are constantly sucked, and other acidic and sugary foods.
It does not mean you should not have an occasional soda or a sports drink or a citrus fruit. It is the constant and overuse of these that is damaging. The oral pH goes to a very acidic level (below 5.5) with these which then leads to demineralization of the enamel. The environment that is usually produced by the bacteria is caused by the acidic and sugary foods.
In some cases, acids could come from an internal source too. People with gastroesophageal reflux disease may have the acid coming from the esophagus, which also can lead to erosion.
However, there is nothing to be disheartened about as the lost enamel can be replaced to restore both tooth function and appearance. The most commonly affected teeth are the inner surfaces of the upper incisors and the biting surfaces of the lower molars. The result is tooth sensitivity, darker teeth, and increased chances of tooth decay and fracture.
Repair Mechanisms: Treating erosion has two components to it – to repair the lost tooth structure and to prevent further damage. The second is equally or rather more important than the first one.
Restorations: In mild cases of erosion, the lost tooth structure can be rebuilt with composite resins or glass ionomer cement which usually restores lost tooth structure to its earlier version. Usually done in one sitting, it should not take more than an hour. The results would last longer if further erosion is prevented.
Crowns: In cases where a lot of tooth structure has been lost and the remaining enamel weakened, a new crown will need to be done. This offers protection against further decay and also restores esthetics and function quite effectively.
Avoid overuse of acidic, sugary drinks like sports drinks and aerated beverages.
Avoid sucking on oranges as they prolong the effect of the citric acid on the tooth.
Include toothpaste and rinse with fluoride.
Improve dairy intake, thereby providing sufficient calcium.
Follow oral hygiene habits including brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits.
Lost tooth structure unfortunately cannot be regained; however, further loss can be prevented.
If you wish to discuss about any specific dental problem, you can consult a specilized dentist and ask a free question.