Acid Erosion of Tooth Enamel–It’s For Real!

  How does your dentist know if you are a heavy soda drinker or if you have an acid reflux problem like GERD (GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease)? Many dental patients are being overexposed to acid in their diets and are experiencing the negative effects of this overexposure in their teeth…and your dentist will know!

     Believe it or not, this irreversible, accelerated wearing away of tooth enamel is quite common and on the rise, especially in patients ages 5-17.  This age group’s increased susceptibility is due mostly to the frequent consumption of acidic drinks to include: fruit juices, lemonades, sweet teas, sodas, and energy drinks, as well as candies that are in the mouth frequently or for extended periods of time. All of these liquids contain citric acids and the sodas have carbonic and phosphoric acids, which have a severely detrimental effect on the tooth enamel. In older patient populations, sodas, bottled teas, and wine are more commonly the culprits, but some internal factors to be considered are GERD and Bulimia. The erosion with GERD and Bulimia can be devastating as the stomach bile, which is extremely acidic, comes in contact with tooth enamel regularly and for longer periods of time…just eating away.

     If you have noticed the edges of your front teeth looking thinner or the back of the teeth having a rough, not pearlescent texture to them, you probably have some erosion occuring. There is also a discoloring effect with the thinning of the enamel, as the yellowish layer of dentin becomes exposed and more visible. Once this dentin is exposed, patients usually experience a great deal of sensitivity to cold and sweets.

     Enamel is not regenerative, so the only way to correct this erosion is to have composite resin restorations bonded where enamel used to be coupled with the abandonment of your favorite acidic foods and drinks. If GERD is indicated as the source of acid erosion, then you should seek a medical professional who can prescribe medication to help alleviate the overproduction of stomach acids.  Bulimia is extremely tough to conquer for anyone, but awareness is the first step in getting your oral and overall health back. Working with dental, medical, and psychiatric professionals is the way to go in that case.  

      What will happen if this erosion continues over a long period of time? Nothing good, that’s for sure! The health of your teeth depends greatly on the strength of the enamel. This substance keeps the extreme biting forces from wearing the teeth down to nubs, protects a person from experiencing sensitivity, and is the first line of defense against cavity-causing bacteria.  Once this enamel shield is gone, your teeth are sending out an open invitation for dental problems.     

 One way to prevent acid erosion of the enamel is to eliminate or minimize exposure to sugary and acidic food and drink. Another way to help prevent this problem is to utilize a fluoridated mouth rinse and have your hygienist apply a concentrated fluoride treatment at your regular cleaning appointments. Seeing a dentist at least annually or at the onset of any changes in the appearance or texture of your teeth is the ideal way to nip any issues in the bud. Take care of yourself and keep smiling!

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