Tooth Wear

Much of the time, we accept wear in our teeth as normal. The reality, however, is very different. If we look after our teeth, they can actually last a lifetime. Certainly some wear is normal – we will lose structure as we age. But it’s not insurmountable.

Tooth enamel is actually the hardest structure in the body. It’s even harder than bone! It resists wearing and attack by chemicals, and still does everything we need it to do every day – chew, bite, and resist chemically caustic drinks and foods.

So, how do teeth wear? The main cause is abrasion. This is the interaction of your teeth and the other material that might rub or scrape up against them. You might be interested to know that the main cause of undesirable abrasion is your toothbrush! That’s right, the brush that you think is protecting your teeth is actually adversely affecting its surfaces below the gum line. The other cause can be those “good for you” foods like sunflower seeds or nuts.

Oh, and if you’re chewing your pen or biting your nails? Stop.

Another cause of wear is attrition. What this means is simply the day-to-day chewing of your food. It makes for tooth-on-tooth contact, and you can generate as much as 23 pounds of force on your teeth just during the daily business of eating. Add to that acidic compounds, like sports drinks, lemonade, and alcohol, and you’re ruining your teeth. If you must consume these products, please at least swish with water afterward to prevent erosion.

Consider abfraction, too. We know, it sounds weird – but what it is, is wearing of the tooth enamel down around the neck of the tooth, toward the gum line. Honestly, it’s not fully understood. Even dentists debate the cause. All that’s really known is that it happens, and it might be caused by biting. The way in which it contributes to tooth wear isn’t really known – all that is known is that it DOES.

Treatment for Worn Teeth

To treat worn teeth, the first course of action has to be to determine what causes the wear. Sometimes, this can be determined with an oral examination in your dentist’s office, and the condition can be easily treated. Sometimes, all that’s needed is instruction on effective brushing. Other times, diet might need to be discussed. If you’re grinding, maybe you need a mouth guard.

Whatever the cause, if tooth structure is lost, then it has to be replaced so that you can chew properly and have good-looking teeth. With modern dentistry, the normal appearance and function of your teeth can be restored.

Text Copyright © 2015 Louis K. Cheung DDS PS – All rights reserved. Images used under license from Dear Doctor, Inc.