Tooth erosion: the silent and costly epidemic

Dental erosion is the loss of tooth structure through exposure to acids. Erosion can dissolve the enamel and expose the sensitive dentine. Once exposed, dentine will wear faster than enamel. Erosion can cause the teeth to become sensitive, yellow in colour, and can lead to decay.

Enamel is the protective cover on teeth, and the hardest material in the body. It protects the dentine (the inside part of the tooth), and the pulp, which is made up of nerves and blood vessels.

Acids that cause erosion are most commonly found in drinks such as fruit juices, sports, energy and soft drinks, herbal teas and alcohol. These acids can gradually dissolve the enamel from teeth and lead to the loss of the tooth’s natural shape, or exposure of the dentine.

Medications and diabetes can often cause erosion. People with diabetes can suffer from reduced saliva flow as a result of some medications. Saliva plays a vital role in protecting your teeth by washing away particles of food and neutralising the damaging acids. If you have a dry mouth, erosion may damage your teeth more quickly. If your medication is causing this, ask your doctor if there are any alternative medications you can try. Work with both your doctor and your FirstBite dentist to find the right medication for you, and your teeth.

Tooth erosion can be very costly to repair. Restorative treatment can vary from simple procedures such as resin bonding to more complex treatments such as multiple crowns.

To avoid costly tooth erosion:

  • Drink plenty of fluoridated tap water.
  • Restrict acidic beverages to main meals, as the effect of acidic drinks is reduced when consumed with food.
  • Limit your daily intake of drinks such as fruit juice, soft drinks, sports and energy drinks, herbal teas and alcohol.
  • Use a soft toothbrush and be sure to brush your teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Chew sugar-free gum.
  • Keep your teeth healthy with regular brushing, flossing and rinsing.
  • Visit your FirstBite dentist for regular checkups and cleans.