As we age, our teeth wear down¹. If this process occurs rapidly or is very destructive then attention may be needed to treat it and reduce any further damage. Here we discuss the main tooth wear causes, the symptoms to look out, the different tooth wear treatments available and the tips to help prevent – or reduce – tooth wear.
What is tooth wear?
The term tooth wear refers to the loss of tooth substance, or tissue, that is not caused by bacterial tooth decay (dental caries or cavities). Instead, chemical and mechanical processes are the reason behind it¹.
While the process of teeth wearing away is a natural part of the ageing process, treatment may be required if it occurs rapidly or is very destructive.
Tooth wear causes
There are three main processes behind worn down teeth¹. These are:
Abrasion: This is when the mechanical action of physical materials against the teeth is responsible for teeth wearing away. It can also cause receding gums. This can be down to:
- Incorrect toothbrush use.
- Chewing pens, toothpicks or other hard objects.
- Biting nails.
- Eating foods that are particularly abrasive, like seeds and nuts.
- Piercings in the lips or tongue rubbing against the teeth.
- Attrition: This is another mechanical cause, and is when tooth-to-tooth contact is the reason for worn down teeth, such as:
- Erosion: This is when a chemical process – such as acid – is behind the loss of tooth substance. Erosion can be either intrinsic (from inside the body) or extrinsic (from outside the body). Intrinsic sources include chronic vomiting and forms of gastric acid reflux, while extrinsic sources feature external factors, such as acidic food and drink, certain medications, such as aspirin, and chewable vitamin C tablets¹.
A combination of all three types of tooth wear may be responsible for any damage to your teeth² so it’s important to visit a dentist and understand all the factors at work.
Signs of worn down teeth
There are certain symptoms that indicate you have a worn tooth or teeth. These include¹:
- Sensitivity or pain when drinking something that’s cold, hot or sweet.
- Teeth becoming discoloured or yellow.
- Changes in the shape of your teeth (caused by the loss of tissue).
- Jaw ache or headache (which can accompany tooth grinding).
- Abscesses (in extreme cases).
Tooth wear treatments
Your dentist will decide whether treatment is necessary by monitoring the extent of the situation using the Tooth Wear Index³. This scores individual teeth on a scale that measures loss of enamel surface, contour changes, and pulp exposure.
Depending on the cause and severity, treatments might involve replacing the missing tooth structure and rebuilding the teeth through dental bonding (in minor cases) or fitting dental crowns or veneers (in more severe cases).
When attrition is the cause, your dentist might assess your occlusion (how your teeth move and your jaw works), and orthodontics might be used to move your teeth to a different position².
Worn tooth prevention
Prevention is better than cure, of course, and you can help reduce the chances of your teeth wearing away by taking into consideration the following tips:
- Have regular dental check-ups to monitor the condition of your teeth.
- Avoid acidic foods and drinks.
- Use a straw with acidic drinks to limit contact on your teeth.
- Rinse your mouth with water or drink milk after consuming anything acidic.
- Stop any abrasive habits like nail biting/pen chewing.
- Identify if you’re clenching/grinding your teeth and seek treatment from your dentist – this may mean wearing a mouthguard at night.
- Wait for an hour after drinking/eating before brushing your teeth.
- Use a small-head toothbrush that has soft or medium bristles of equal length.
- Try Regenerate Advanced Toothpaste which is formulated with patented technology to activate enamel regeneration, keeping teeth healthy and strong.
With this information on tooth wear, you know what to look for and how to avoid some of the common causes of this dental issue.
Remember, if you have any concerns about your teeth, it’s always best to speak to your dentist.
The advice in this article does not constitute medical advice; it is solely available for information purposes. We recommend that you consult your dentist If you are experiencing any dental problems.