You know the problems with cavities, but are you aware of tooth erosion, another serious tooth problem? Tooth erosion is the wearing away of the tooth’s enamel-the tooth’s outer coating that helps protect it.
How Does This Happen?
When you consume carbonated beverages, fruit juice, or highly acidic foods, the acids attack tooth enamel. The calcium in your saliva would normally help remineralize your teeth, but if you consume too much acid, it can’t keep up. Acid attacks can come from a variety of sources:
*Carbonated beverages, even diet versions, contain a lot of acid and can quickly do serious damage. It is worse when you drink large amounts or continuously throughout the day.
*Pure fruit juice has similar effects on your teeth because it also contains a lot of acid.
*Besides acids you ingest, there are also acid attacks from bulimia and acid reflux. In both of these, the damage comes from stomach acids.
How do I Know if I’m Suffering from Tooth Erosion?
There are a wide range of signs and symptoms-from its early stages (sensitivity, discoloration, rounded teeth) to the later, more severe stages (cracks, severe sensitivity, cupping).
Here is how they break down:
*Sensitivity-with the protection from enamel wearing away, you may feel pain when you consume hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks.
*Discoloration-teeth can take on a yellow cast as the dentin layer of the teeth is exposed.
*Rounded teeth-you may notice your teeth have a rounded or “sand blasted” look.
*Transparency-your front teeth may become translucent near the biting edges.
*Advanced discoloration-as more of the enamel wears away, more of the dentin is exposed.
*Cracks-small cracks and roughness may appear at the edges of teeth.
*Severe sensitivity-sensitivity increases as more enamel is worn away.
*Cupping-small dents may appear on the chewing surface of the teeth; you may also notice fillings appearing to rise up out of the tooth.
When Can I Do?
You don’t have to accept tooth erosion as a fact of life. There are lots of things you can do to avoid the damage altogether, or at least, to mitigate against it. For instance, if you swear off carbonated beverages, you are avoiding that source of acid outright. Short of that, you can reduce the damage from these tasty treats by doing things like:
*Drinking through a straw. This helps limit contact between the acids and your teeth. And don’t swish carbonated beverages around or hold them in your mouth for long periods.
*If you consume acidic food or drinks, rinse with water to neutralize the acids. You should also wait an hour before brushing your teeth.
*Increase saliva production by chewing sugar-free gum. This helps your teeth to remineralize.
*If you suffer from bulimia or acid reflux, see your doctor for help.