Prevention is better than cure

Article written by: Louise Donald

Unfortunately, dental erosion (acid wear) is being seen more frequently in the dental chair. This loss of the protective enamel layer on the teeth leaves the dentine underneath exposed, which can lead to pain and sensitivity. Every time our mouth is exposed to something acidic the enamel becomes softer for a short while and loses some of its mineral content.

The most common cause of erosion is by acidic foods and drinks. Now let’s go back to school chemistry and remember the pH scale! Any foods or drinks with a pH below 5.5 can trigger dental erosion. The most frequent drink triggers are soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks, wine and beer. We are all guilty of these pleasures, however prolonged and regular consumption can damage the teeth. Drinking through a straw can help prevent acidic drinks from contacting your teeth, but don’t rely on this to be a major solution as the best approach is to reduce the overall consumption. Drinking still water is best for the teeth and milk helps to neutralize the acids in our mouths. For food, snacking on sugary or highly acidic foods throughout the day will put your teeth under constant attack. Are you one of those people who have a bag of lollies hidden in your office drawer? It is best for your teeth to eat these in one go or after a meal rather than in between. Other sources of erosive acids can come from high exposure to chlorinated swimming pools and gastric acid.

One of the physical signs of dental erosion is the change in colour of the teeth along the central incisors. The biting edge of the teeth will become transparent. The teeth also change in shape, exhibiting a broad rounded concavity. The gaps between teeth also become larger. Other signs of dental erosion include sensitivity to hot, cold and sweet foods. This is due to the dentine being exposed as the enamel has eroded.

What can we do to minimize the risk of dental erosion? Chewing gum and rinsing the mouth with water after anything acidic can help to stimulate saliva. Saliva acts as a buffer, helping to dilute and clear any potential erosive agents from the mouth. Brushing your teeth at least an hour after will also allow your teeth time to build up their mineral content again.

Brush as least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste – using a hard-bristle toothbrush or scrubbing at teeth will cause dental abrasion. The hygienist will also be able to test the pH level of your saliva and make sure enough saliva is being produced. Your hygienist or dentist may also recommend Toothmousse, which is calcium phosphate, to aid remineralisation. Regular visits to the hygienist or dentist can help as they will detect the early stages of dental erosion. For further information on preventing and managing dental erosion, make an appointment with Casey Dentists’ dental team.