What is Erosive Tooth Wear?
When you look at your teeth, they seem solid, but actually the enamel, the outer layer of your tooth, can slowly dissolve if it’s surrounded by acid, such as that found in fruit juices or some fizzy drinks; this is known as ‘erosion’
- Erosion starts when minerals are removed from your teeth and softens the enamel
- The ingredients for re-hardening your teeth are found in saliva and fluoride in toothpastes so the softening can be repaired
Erosive Tooth Wear most often occurs on your front teeth and the biting surfaces of your back teeth
- Part or all of the outer layer of tooth, the enamel, may eventually be lost, exposing the inner layer, the dentin. This inner layer is more yellow and once exposed changes the colour of the teeth.
- You are not alone, erosive tooth wear is common, about a third of all adults have it, though few have it severely
- Read more about the structure of your teeth and how acid affects your teeth.
Causes of erosive tooth wear
One of the most common ways to wear away the tooth is by drinking and eating acidic drinks and foods outside meal times.
A number of drinks and some foods can contribute to erosive tooth wear but the amount of times you consume these, especially by frequent snacking, can also influence the amount of erosion
Fruit-based drinks containing citric acid
Other causes can include:
Signs & Symptoms
Changes in the shape and/ or appearance/ colour of your teeth. Teeth may become:
Shape may change
Glassy in appearance
Teeth become shorter
Pain when teeth come into contact with hot/cold
It may be your dentist who first notices this but don’t wait, make an appointment if you are concerned about this, even if your teeth aren’t hurting
How does acid affect my teeth?
pH is determined on a scale of 0–14 from acidic (pH 0–6), through neutral (pH 7), to alkaline (pH 8–14). It is a measure of the activity of hydrogen ions and the pH in your mouth is usually around neutral
Your enamel is mostly made of crystals of a mineral called hydroxyapatite. These crystals can dissolve if surrounded by acid of a pH lower than 5.5, meaning that if your teeth are in contact with acid for too long, the top layer could disappear, like salt crystals in water; this is known as ‘demineralisation’.
However, the ‘ingredients’ to make up enamel are also in your saliva and the soft, removable layer next to the teeth (called the ‘pellicle’) so your teeth are constantly being rebuilt; this is known as ‘remineralisation’.
The key to overcoming acid erosion is to make sure your teeth are not exposed to a highly acidic environment for too long.
The pH of a variety of drinks shows how acidic they are
- Wine (red or white): pH 3.4–3.7
- Grapefruit, apple or orange juice: pH 3.0–3.7
- Cola: pH 2.2–2.6
Could you be at risk of erosive tooth wear?
Select answers to the following questions to determine whether you could be at risk of erosive tooth wear.
This quiz is designed to help you to understand the risk factors for erosive tooth wear –
however for a more detailed diagnosis you need to speak to your dental professional.
Your score may indicate you have a low number of risk factors for erosive tooth wear. In order to maintain this, try to maintain consumption of acidic food or drinks that you may have (such as fizzy drinks, wine, fruit & juices) to mealtimes.
You score may indicate that you may be at risk of erosive tooth wear. Snacking on acidic food and drinks between meals over extended periods increases the amount of contact time with your enamel and reduces the likelihood that your mouth can neutralise the acid.
Your score may indicate a high risk of erosive tooth wear. Speak to your dental professional about steps you can take to minimise the risk. This may include limiting acidic food and drinks to mealtimes, avoiding acidic drinks over extended periods during the day and speaking to your doctor if you suffer with acid reflux.
How does acid affect my teeth?
How does erosive tooth wear differ from dental cavities/tooth decay?
Saliva and my teeth?
The pros and cons of restoring your teeth?
The structure of my teeth?
What causes mechanical tooth wear?
What causes sensitive teeth?
What do the other ingredients in toothpaste do?
What does fluoride actually do in erosive tooth wear?