What is Dental Erosion?

What is Dental Erosion_

Did you know that tooth decay is not the only thing that can damage your teeth? Unfortunately, tooth enamel can also become damaged as a result of dental erosion. Enamel erosion associated with tooth decay is caused by acids produced by bacteria. However, when other acids not associated with bacteria cause enamel damage, this is known as dental erosion. 

Although dental erosion is not caused by bacteria, it can be caused by a number of other things, including: 

Diet

There are several different types of foods and beverages that are considered to be acidic. By regularly consuming these foods and beverages, the enamel becomes exposed to more acids. Over time, this will eventually cause the enamel to erode. Things to watch out for include rhubarb, berries, applies, citrus fruits and juices, and soda containing citric or phosphoric acid. 

cartoon of man with a desert for a tongue

Dry Mouth 

Another cause of dental erosion is dry mouth, or the decreased production of saliva. Normal saliva flow is important for regulating acid content within the mouth. However, dry mouth reduces the amount of saliva, which consequently increases the level of acidity. 

Teeth Grinding

Grinding or clenching your teeth, which is also known as bruxism, can also cause your enamel to erode. Although this is not directly caused by acid, bruxism wears down the enamel and makes it more susceptible to dietary and stomach acids. The likelihood of erosion can increase when combined with dry mouth. 

woman holding her throat due to acide reflux

Stomach Acid

Stomach acid that has made its way into the mouth is another common cause of dental erosion. This most commonly occurs as the result of acid reflux disease, or medical conditions that cause frequent vomiting. The constant exposure to stomach acid eventually erodes the enamel over time. 

Erosion occurs as a result of a process called demineralization. Tooth enamel is composed of hydroxyapatite, which is a term used to describe calcium and phosphate molecules that are arranged in a crystalline pattern. While this material can stand up against the force of chewing, it can wear down when exposed to the forces associated with bruxism, as well as when exposed to too much acid at once. 

When your enamel starts to erode, it may not be noticeable at first. In fact, early enamel erosion is often noticed only by a general dentist. However, as the enamel continues to erode, it can eventually cause symptoms such as tooth sensitivity, discoloration, indentations on the surface of the teeth, and possible chips or cracks as a result of weak enamel. 

Overall, dental erosion is a harmful process that can damage your enamel and weaken your teeth’s ability to protect themselves. It is most commonly caused by dietary and stomach acids, however it can also be the result of dry mouth or teeth grinding. All of these causes demineralize the enamel, causing it to become weaker over time. Although not immediately noticeable, dental erosion can also produce symptoms similar to those of tooth decay. To prevent dental erosion, it is important to speak with your general dentist about the current condition of your teeth and to develop a plan moving forward. 

Thomas M. Piazza, DDS

Dr. Piazza has been a lifelong resident of Naperville.  He is a graduate of Naperville North High School, received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry at North Central College and earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree at the University of Illinois College of Dentistry in 1988.  After graduation, he opened his current dental practice in Naperville.

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