Do you have sensitive teeth? If you experience shooting pain in one or more teeth when you drink a hot beverage—or if ice cream makes your teeth ache—you may have enamel erosion. This condition is often caused by drinking sodas, wine, and acidic fruit juices (think lemonade), but can also occur due to the frequent presence of stomach acid in the mouth. Patients who are more prone to vomiting and acid reflux frequently have eroded enamel, and it’s not a good thing.
Eroded enamel is a serious threat to the structural integrity of your teeth. The loss of protective enamel may leave your teeth with a yellowish appearance, where the translucent enamel has worn away to expose the dentin. This is why they become more sensitive and vulnerable to cavities; dentin is less protected and nerve endings are more exposed. When much of your enamel has worn away, you are at greater risk of fractures and tooth decay, which can advance more quickly and require advanced restorations, such as root canals.
The human body is very good at repairing and re-growing many of its tissues, but tooth enamel is not one of them. There are a number of ways that you can prevent your enamel from thinning, but once that enamel is gone, you can’t get it back. If you’ve lost significant amount of enamel already, Dr. Ruth Bailey may be able to correct this with restorative bonding or the application of porcelain veneers.
Other Causes of Enamel Loss
In addition to acidic beverages, there are a number of factors that can cause your enamel to thin:
- Grinding or clenching the teeth (bruxism)
- Friction from biting and chewing, especially hard nonfood items (pens, bottle caps, etc.)
- Chlorine exposure in swimming pools
- Alcohol consumption
- Overzealous brushing and flossing
- Stomach acids in the mouth, from GERD or frequent vomiting
- Frequent use of aspirin
- Dry mouth
Some of these factors cannot be avoided, of course, and a varying amount of lost enamel is a natural result of aging. The important thing is for you to be aware of your risk factors, and learn to recognize the symptoms, so you can seek treatment from your dentist.
Symptoms of Enamel Erosion
In addition to sensitivity to extreme temperatures, you may also experience some of the following symptoms:
- Pain when biting into chocolate or other sweets
- Yellowing of the teeth where enamel is thin
- Cracks and chips on the edges of teeth
- Rough or jagged edges of teeth
- Indentations on the surface of teeth
How You Can Prevent Enamel Loss
There are steps you can take to preserve your enamel if it has not yet started thinning.
- See your dentist every six months for routine care and fluoride treatments.
- Use a fluoride-containing rinse after brushing and flossing.
- Drink sodas and other acidic drinks with a straw.
- Eat cheese before you drink wine.
- Keep your mouth well lubricated when you experience dry mouth (xerostomia).
- Limit your exposure to enamel-eroding substances, such as chlorine (pool water) and stomach acids.
Treatments for Enamel Erosion
Lost enamel cannot be restored, but we can provide restorative bonding and porcelain veneers. If enamel loss is not widespread and only affects a few teeth, dental bonding may be able to protect those teeth from damage. Bonding uses composite resins (the same material used in fillings) to sculpt a new surface over a tooth. The bonded surface can serve as barrier to protect the tooth from further damage, bacteria, and decay. If a tooth is discolored, the bonded surface can be matched to the natural color of your teeth.
If you suffer from widespread erosion, you may want to consider porcelain veneers. This treatment provides a new surface for each tooth, and is made from an extremely thin, yet durable, layer of dental porcelain. They are crafted to fit over the front of each tooth, and are an excellent solution to multiple problems that threaten the structure of your teeth. Veneers are most commonly used as a cosmetic treatment, so they can be designed to your aesthetic preferences.