There are 365 days in a year, and if you eat three meals per day, along with a couple of snacks, you're using your teeth to chew food some 1825 times per year (and it's possibly more than that, depending on your snacking habits). Sure, they need to be looked after, both at home and with regular dental care, but the durability of your teeth is really quite remarkable. And yet, there's going to be some wear and tear. It's really a fact of life. But what about when this wear and tear seems to be particularly advanced? What causes your teeth to wear away, almost like they're eroding? And more importantly, can this wear be reversed?
External Sources of Erosion
Extrinsic erosion is when your teeth are essentially worn down due to external sources, which is a combination of diet and habits. Your diet might be too rich in sugar or acid (with food and drink high in phosphoric or citric acid). Diet can lead to extrinsic erosion, but it can be aggravated and even accelerated by certain habits, such as clenching and grinding your teeth. You won't even necessarily be aware of these bad habits, as they might occur almost exclusively while you're sleeping. But what is the effect on your teeth?
A Decrease in Height
As they wear away, your teeth will essentially begin to decrease in height. The surface texture (dental enamel) at the tips of your teeth will be the first to be lost, and the underlying dentin will then be exposed. As the dentin is not as strong as the enamel that should be covering it, its erosion can result in this decrease in the height of your teeth. They're basically shrinking as they erode, and eventually even the pulp chamber (the central component of the tooth which hosts the nerve) will be exposed. This can be uncomfortable and leaves the tooth far more vulnerable to decay. Can this erosion be reversed?
Your dentist has a wide range of options to reverse your tooth erosion, and the best method depends on the extent of the damage and the placement of the affected teeth. A composite resin (dental bonding) can be applied to the tips of the tooth, which basically restores its height and seals the dentin, creating what is an artificial type of enamel. When the damage is more severe, a type of onlay (generally a dental crown) will be recommended.
Once the restoration work is complete, the causes of the erosion must be addressed in order to prevent a recurrence of the problem. This can involve making changes to your diet, and when excessive overnight grinding is thought to have played a role, your dentist will likely fabricate a type of lightweight overnight mouthguard to prevent you from grinding them.
A bit of wear and tear is to be expected with your teeth, but only a bit. When the very architecture of your teeth becomes compromised by extrinsic erosion, restoration work becomes essential, and the sooner the better.