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what causes acid erosion in teeth

Case Study: What Causes Acid Erosion in Teeth

Protecting and preserving your tooth enamel is one of the most important things you can do for your teeth. Over time, tooth enamel breaks down due to impact, grinding, age, and acid erosion. Damage from acid erosion may be the easiest to prevent. To understand how you may prevent acid erosion, first you need to understand what causes acid erosion in teeth.

What Causes Acid Erosion in Teeth? 

Did you know that your tooth enamel is the hardest tissue within the human body? It serves to protect your teeth. Unfortunately, if eroded, chipped, or damaged it is not able to repair itself like your bones do. This is why preventing acid erosion is so important. But before you make a plan to prevent acid erosion, it helps if you understand what causes acid erosion in teeth.

Over time, when your teeth encounter acids the enamel starts to wear down and erode. The signs start to show as we age, but some people experience acid erosion sooner than others. Lifestyle plays a big part as does health and environment factors. Factors that lead to premature acid erosion include:

  • Health issues like acid reflux disease or bulimia
  • Frequent consumption of acidic beverages like coffee, fruit juice, and soda
  • A diet high in sugar and starch
  • Dry mouth or a lack of saliva
  • Some medications like antihistamines or aspirin
  • Genetics

Now that you better understand some factors that lead to acid erosion, you are better equipped to prevent unnecessary further damage.

How Do You Know if Your Teeth Are Eroding? 

Now that you understand what causes acid erosion in teeth, you may wonder whether your enamel has been damaged. The following symptoms may indicate acid erosion:

  • Pain and sensitivity in your tooth or teeth. Sensitivity to cold or hot temperatures is one common sign of damage from erosion.
  • Tooth discoloration. Healthy enamel is translucent, however as it breaks down the inner layer of dentin is more exposed and this may contribute to a yellow appearance.
  • Cracks or dents. As teeth erode cracks, chips, dents or fractures become more common.
  • Transparent appearance especially around the edges of the tooth.

If you experience these symptoms please make an appointment to see your dentist for a treatment and prevention plan.

How Do You Prevent Acid Erosion? 

Since your tooth enamel is unable to repair itself, the only way to avoid unnecessary acid erosion is through prevention. An enamel healthy lifestyle involves good oral hygiene, regular dental care including cleanings, and avoiding unnecessary acids that wear down your enamel. 

Healthy levels of saliva help protect the teeth from acid erosion. Not only does it dilute acids and help neutralize them, it also helps coat teeth with protective minerals like calcium. If you experience dry mouth, be sure to discuss it with your dentist. 

In addition to maintaining a healthy balance of saliva, your diet has a large impact on the acid exposure to your teeth. Consider following these dietary guidelines:

  • Eliminate or reduce highly acidic drinks including coffee, soda, fruit juices, wine, and carbonated water. People who sip coffee or soda throughout the day are at the most risk. It is better for your teeth to concentrate drinking these beverages within limited time frames and to rinse your mouth with water afterwards.
  • Limit acidic foods and confine them to specific meal times. Some acidic foods are healthy, this is why we suggest limiting the times you eat them and then rinsing your mouth with water afterwards. Some examples of acidic foods include citrus fruits like lemons and oranges and foods high in sugar and starch.
  • Drink plain, still water during the day to stay hydrated, prevent dry mouth, and dilute acids.
  • If you snack, look for less acidic and less sugary options like cheese, yogurt, nuts, or many vegetables.

In addition to diet, create an enamel-healthy environment in your mouth by addressing any issues that may contribute to acid erosion.

  • If you are pregnant and experience morning sickness, gently rinse your mouth with water after you vomit. Avoid brushing immediately afterwards so as to avoid brushing the acid into the teeth. If necessary to brush, use a baking soda and water paste to neutralize the acid.
  • Seek treatment for underlying conditions that may expose your teeth to more acids such as bulimia, acid reflux, etc.
  • Gently brush your teeth with a soft bristled brush and using a toothpaste containing Fluoride. Fluoride strengthens your teeth.
  • Don’t brush too quickly after consuming acidic foods or beverages. Your enamel isn’t as strong immediately afterwards, instead gently rinse your mouth and wait at least 30 minutes before gently brushing your teeth.
  • Consider using a straw if you drink acidic beverages because a straw moves the drink towards the back of your mouth farther away from your teeth.
  • Consider chewing a sugar-free gum containing the ingredient xylitol between meals. It appears that xylitol reduces acids and gum stimulates saliva production. Be sure to ask your dentist if chewing gum is appropriate for you since in some situations you may want to avoid it.
  • Stick with your recommended schedule for dental examinations and professional cleanings.

Before & After

Before Acid Erosion TreatmentBefore Acid Erosion Treatment

After Acid Erosion TreatmentAfter Acid Erosion Treatment

How is Acid Erosion Treated? 

Prevention is the best treatment option, so always seek to reduce your teeth’s exposure to acid. This is why it is essential to understand what causes acid erosion in teeth and how you can prevent it. 

If diagnosed early, your dentist may help stop further damage by treating the root cause of acid erosion. Remineralization treatments may also help. 

Your dentist may mitigate some of the damage through fillings and techniques like tooth bonding. Tooth bonding is where your dentist applies a tooth colored resin to coat damaged teeth. Sometimes veneers or caps also help repair existing damage. 

In more extreme cases, the damage may be so extensive that the only option is a full mouth reconstruction or rehab. 

Understanding what causes acid erosion in teeth empowers you to make lifestyle changes that protect your teeth so they last a lifetime. I addition to lifestyle factors, professional dental care is at the center of a healthy mouth and smile. It all starts with a dental examination and cleaning. If you are a Charlotte area resident who hasn’t seen a dentist this year, contact Southview Dentistry today.