What is erosion?
Erosion is the wearing of the tooth enamel (the hard, outer layer of the tooth) by acid. Underneath the enamel is the dentine layer, which is a very sensitive part of the tooth. If your enamel is worn away by acid, it can’t protect the dentine and you might start to experience sensitivity or pain.
What are the signs of erosion?
- As the acid wears the enamel, you may start to notice:
- Translucent tooth edges – as the enamel thins
- Sensitivity – as the dentine becomes exposed
- Discolouration/Yellowing – as the darker dentine becomes more visible through the thinning enamel
- Hollowing/cupping – due to the wear of the chewing surfaces
What causes erosion?
Whenever you eat or drink anything acidic your enamel suffers an acid attack. The enamel becomes soft for a short while after the attack and it loses some of its mineral content. Your saliva helps neutralise the acid and restore the natural balance but if the attacks happen too often, your mouth does not get a chance to recover and you start to lose the surface of your teeth.
Some medical problems such as bulimia (where people make themselves sick) or gastro intestinal reflux (acid reflux, regurgitation) can also cause damage the enamel due to high levels of acid being brought up into the mouth from the stomach.
What foods and drinks are high in acid?
Fizzy drinks, including diet fizzy drinks and fizzy water, can cause erosion as they contain acid. Fruit, fruit juices, fruit smoothies and some fruit teas contain natural acids that can harm the teeth.
What can you do to prevent erosion?
- Reduce the number of acid attacks to your teeth by having acid foods or drinks only at mealtimes, not as a snack
- Drink without holding or “swishing” around your mouth, so you reduce the amount of time the acid is held against the teeth
- After a meal, a small piece of cheese or drink of milk can help neutralise the acid
- Chewing sugar-free chewing gum after a meal can help stimulate the saliva which naturally protects your teeth
- Always brush for two minutes, twice a day (one being the last thing before you go to bed) with fluoride toothpaste.