Dental erosion is a common dental problem. Eating and drinking can damage the enamel of the teeth. The acid makes the enamel softer. The saliva can restore the balance in the mouth, but that is only possible if there is not too often an “acid thrust”. If this is the case, the tooth enamel becomes thinner and more porous.
What is dental erosion?
Dental erosion can therefore best be described as the dissolution of tooth enamel by acids from food and drinks. More than 90% of the tooth enamel consists of a material that is soluble in acids. In addition to acids that secrete oral bacteria (which can lead to cavities / dental caries), tooth enamel is also dissolved by acids from food and drink. For example, when drinking excessive amounts of soft drinks, such as colas and fruit juices, descaling of the tooth enamel occurs. Now, with occasional consumption of acidic food or drinks, this is not a problem, because part of the descaling is reversed by the saliva (re-mineralization). However, when the acids can regularly plague the tooth enamel, tooth erosion occurs.
Dental erosion occurs on virtually the entire tooth surface due to non-bacterial acids. Cavities are caused by acids that excrete bacteria when they feed on the residues in dental plaque. The difference with dental erosion is that cavities often occur below the surface, with only one tooth or molar, while dental erosion starts at the surface and often causes damage to the entire tooth and teeth. As a result, in dental erosion, dissolving the tooth enamel can cause the entire teeth to wear out and the tooth enamel to disappear completely. This exposes your dental bone, after which it is sensitive to stimuli (cold, heat, sugars), bacteria have free rein and teeth and gums can further weaken.
How do I recognize dental erosion?
Dental erosion is unfortunately often difficult to recognize at an early stage, when complaints arise the tooth enamel is already disappearing. That is because the consequences are noticeable until very late. This is usually when sensitivity develops when eating or drinking (cold / hot). In addition, dental erosion can be seen by a changing appearance of the teeth:
- The teeth become shorter, thinner, more transparent and have ragged / serrated edges;
- The yellow colored dentin becomes visible; the teeth therefore become more yellow or have dark spots;
- Fillings that protrude above the teeth (that material is not affected while the tooth wears away due to the acids);
- Sometimes dull and rough spots.
People who suffer from dental erosion usually suffer from cavities and gum problems a little more often. So if the dentist regularly checks the teeth, he or she will be able to recognize this in time.
How to prevent dental erosion?
Because the effects of dental erosion are noticeable and visible late, you must do everything to prevent it. Dental erosion is caused by acids in foods, the best known examples are frequent consumption of cola, sports drinks, sweets and fruit. Other foods and drinks that can cause tooth erosion are: citrus fruits, rhubarb, sour sauces, citric acid, yogi drink, wine, soft drinks, alcoholic mixed drinks, fruit juices and medicines. Light soft drinks also contain acid. Dairy products such as yogurt or buttermilk are also acidic. Yet they are less bad for the teeth because it contains calcium and phosphates. On the contrary, calcium makes the teeth strong.
The first advice to limit dental erosion is therefore to reduce the use of acidic beverages and foodstuffs and if you do use them, to swallow them quickly and especially not to rinse them or to keep them in your mouth (so no acids either) or lollipops). Use a maximum of 7 eating times per day to prevent problems with your teeth, which means 3 main meals and a maximum of 4 times in between. After eating or drinking something acidic you can rinse with plain water to neutralize the acid. You can achieve the same effect by chewing gum.
Saliva plays an important role in protecting the teeth against acids. It forms a protective layer on the teeth and makes the tooth enamel strong again. Part of the extracted calcium ends up in the saliva and can be “absorbed” again by the tooth enamel. Good oral hygiene is important here. For good oral hygiene, we recommend brushing twice a day (morning and evening) with a fluoride toothpaste. We recommend anti-caries toothpaste for this. In addition, it is strongly discouraged to brush your teeth within half an hour after eating or drinking. Eating and drinking actually lowers the acidity in the mouth, causing the tooth enamel to temporarily weaken. Your saliva reinforces the tooth enamel on its own (is a natural process), but when you start brushing in the intervening period you permanently damage the enamel.