What is erosion?

Enamel is the hard coating of the teeth. If this gets worn away it is called tooth enamel erosion or dental erosion.

What causes tooth enamel erosion?

Acid attacks the enamel on the teeth and is the main cause of dental erosion. Saliva in the mouth works hard to get rid of acid from the oral cavity to protect the teeth. However, due to factors including too much acidic food and drink, and problems with tooth brushing, over time the saliva’s repair work cannot cope, and slowly little bits of enamel are eroded away.

To begin with teeth may look more stained, but further exposure of the dentine beneath the enamel makes the teeth more sensitive and painful when exposed to hot, cold or acidic food and drink. Enamel becomes very thin, translucent, and fragile, teeth can appear grey/yellow, and enamel can start chipping away.

Main causes of tooth enamel erosion

  • Acidic/fizzy/carbonated drinks, acidic foods and fruit, energy drinks and effervescent vitamins.
  • Bulimia – an eating disorder where someone makes themselves sick after eating that introduces stomach acids into the mouth.
  • Gastro oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) and other reflux problems – where stomach acids come up into the mouth.
  • Pregnancy morning sickness.
  • Conditions affecting the flow of saliva in the mouth, such as dry mouth.
  • Medications, including aspirin, and vitamin C and iron products.

Foods to Avoid

Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, pineapples and similarly common fruit items are as acidic as they are healthy, which is why it’s important to consume them with water to ensure they don’t harm your enamel.

However, these products aren’t the only foods out there known for their low pH level. Others include pickles, cranberries, tomato products, some herbal teas, which contain fruit extracts and lemon and alcohol, including beer, wine, cider and carbonated wines.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Saliva does its best to stop acid attacking the teeth so that the enamel can repair itself.

  • Once your dentist detects signs of tooth enamel erosion they may recommend extra oral hygiene measures, such as mouthwash, fluoride varnish treatment or a different toothpaste to help regenerate enamel. Diet changes may also be recommended.

  • The Oral Health Foundation recommends these steps to help prevent dental erosion:

    • Limit acidic and sugary food and drinks to main mealtimes
    • Use a straw with acidic cold drinks to keep them away from teeth and don’t swish them around the mouth before swallowing
    • Have some milk or cheese after your meal to help counter the acid
    • Chew some sugar-free gum after eating to encourage saliva
    • After brushing your teeth, let their mineral content recover for at least an hour before having acidic food or drink
    • Brush teeth correctly twice a day, especially last thing at night.
  • If erosion is advanced, restoration treatment may be recommended using a bonded filling material or veneers.

  • This will vary depending on how much work needs to be done.

  • No. Erosion from acids is just one way the teeth are attacked. Abrasion also affects the surface of the teeth, and this may be due to reasons such as grinding teeth and brushing too hard. Allowing plaque and tartar to build up on teeth also makes them more susceptible to attack and problems.

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