Acid erosion, also known as dental erosion, is a type of tooth wear. It is defined as the irreversible loss of tooth structure due to chemical dissolution by acids not of bacterial origin. Dental erosion is the most common chronic disease of children and adults , although it is only relatively recent that it has been recognized as a dental health problem. There is generally widespread ignorance of the damaging effects of acid erosion; this is particularly the case with erosion due to fruit juices, because they tend to be seen as healthy. Erosion is found initially in the enamel and, if unchecked, may proceed to the underlying dentin.
Frequently consumed foods and drinks below pH 5.0–5.7 may initiate dental erosion.
What is tooth erosion?
When the enamel, or protective surface of your teeth, wears away, it exposes the underlying material, called dentin. This leaves your tooth vulnerable to plaque and bacteria, which cause decay.
What causes tooth erosion?
Calcium is a key ingredient in building strong teeth. Unfortunately, exposing your teeth to acid can leach calcium from your enamel, causing this protective surface to break down. Acid can come from many sources, including the following:
- Carbonated drinks. All soft drinks, including “diet” options, contain high levels of acid that can easily dissolve your enamel.
- Wine. Whether you choose red, white or rosé, drinking wine will soften your enamel.
- Fruit juice. The most acidic options include lemon, cranberry, orange and apple.
- Citric fruits. Snacking on oranges, lemons and limes can wear down your teeth.
- Candy. No sugary sweets are good for your teeth, but you should pay extra attention to avoid sour gummies and candies.
- Sugar. Even though sugar itself does not contain high levels of acidity, it promotes the growth of acid-creating bacteria in your mouth, creating an acidic environment.
- Stomach acid. Vomiting and reflux also can cause serious tooth damage when stomach acid comes into contact with your teeth. If you suffer from an eating disorder, acid reflux or a related condition, seek professional help.
What are some signs of tooth erosion?
Acid wear may lead to serious dental problems. It is important to notice the signs of tooth erosion in its early stages (sensitivity and discoloration) before more severe damage occur, such as cracks, pain and decay.
- Sensitivity. As your teeth’s protective enamel wears away, you may feel a twinge of pain when you consume hot, cold or sweet food and drink. As more enamel is worn away, teeth become increasingly sensitive.
- Discolouration. Teeth can become increasingly yellow as the thinning enamel layer exposes the underlying dentin.
- Rounded teeth. Your teeth may have a rounded or “sand-blasted” look.
- Transparency. Your front teeth may appear slightly translucent near the edges.
- Cracks. Small cracks and roughness may appear at the edges of teeth.
- Cupping. Small dents may appear on the chewing surface of the teeth, and fillings may appear to be rising up out of the tooth.