Tooth erosion, or dental erosion, is the process by which the tooth enamel is dissolved by acids. The enamel is the hard surface of the tooth, which protects the vulnerable dentin below. Exposure of the dentin can lead to very sensitive or painful teeth and obvious discomfort.
Tooth erosion is an insidious process that is hard to recognize and difficult to treat, and once the enamel is gone it will never come back. That is why it is so important to prevent it from happening.
What Does Tooth Erosion Look Like?
Tooth erosion is usually detected in an advanced stage, for instance when you get complaints while eating or drinking. At that time, the enamel is usually already severely damaged.
Dental erosion can be recognized when the appearance of the teeth changes. Teeth can get more yellowish or darker in certain areas.The front teeth can also get shorter, thinner, more transparent or get ruffled edges.
Image source: International Journal Of Dentistry
What Causes Tooth Erosion?
Soda’s And Juices
Soda’s and juices (also the light variants) get their fresh taste from added phosphorus acid (in cola), or fruit acids (in juices and sports drinks). The acidic taste of these drinks is masked by added sugars or sweeteners, but they do not neutralize the acids.
No matter how healthy they are, all sour foods are bad for your teeth, especially sour fruits like citrus, apples, blackberries, and currants. Also, derivatives of sour fruits are bad for your teeth, like apple syrup, jam, and fruit juices.
Some foods are acidified with an acetic or citric acid, like salad dressings and mayonnaise, which can cause tooth erosion upon frequent exposure.
Also, Vitamin C supplements are acidic, and sucking on these tablets instead of chewing is very bad for your enamel.
Lack of Saliva
Saliva plays an important role in protecting your teeth, as it neutralizes acids from foods and drinks. Some medications can inhibit the saliva production, which causes a dry mouth and makes you extra vulnerable to erosion.
Eating gum stimulates the saliva production and is therefore beneficial for preventing erosion.
How To Prevent Tooth Erosion?
Since acidic foods and drinks are very bad for your teeth, it is obvious that one solution is to minimize the intake of these products.
When you do take them, keep the products as short in your mouth as possible, so do not rinse your mouth with orange juice or soda for instance.
Brushing Your Teeth
Brush your teeth twice a day, using a soft toothbrush and fluoride-containing toothpaste. Clean the spaces between the teeth once a day by flossing.
After taking acidic products you should wait with brushing your teeth for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. The acids soften the enamel, and if you brush directly afterward you can actually damage the enamel much easier.
Mouthwash Against Tooth Erosion
There are some products that can help you prevent tooth erosion, like Elmex Erosion Protection (reviewed).