Dental Erosion: Causes and TreatmentJanuary 24, 2018
Dental erosion, also known as acid erosion or enamel erosion, occurs when acids soften and remove enamel from the teeth. Because enamel cannot simply grow back, dental erosion is a permanent condition. There are, however, several treatments that can be used to cover the eroded surfaces of the teeth and restore a more attractive, stronger, and less sensitive smile.
To learn about your acid erosion treatment options in Manhattan, call NYC Smile Design at 212-452-3344 and schedule a consultation today.
Bulimia and Acid Erosion
Bulimia is an eating disorder defined by a pattern of binging and purging. While this is extremely dangerous on many levels, one of the most commonly overlooked consequences of bulimia is irreversible damage to the teeth.
The burn that you experience when you throw up is a result of stomach acids. Those same acids are highly corrosive and can quickly remove surface layers of tooth enamel. Men and women struggling with bulimia place their teeth in harm’s way each time they purge – potentially several times a day – and, because the damage is cumulative, each purge increases risks for serious oral health issues.
Bulimia teeth, as they are sometimes referred to, can be identified in several ways. In people who have amalgam fillings, erosion may lower the crown of teeth to the point that the metal is visible above the surface. Severe yellowing, as dentin is exposed, is another telltale sign of bulimia teeth. Burns at the side of the mouth, swollen salivary glands, enlarged jowls, and chronic facial pain may also accompany a binge and purge eating disorder.
Bulimics are at higher risk for tooth loss. Those struggling with this eating disorder are also at higher risk for teeth becoming brittle and breaking or cracking. Bite issues related to long-term bulimia may also increase risks for TMJ, alter the shape of the jaw, and result in a lifetime of oral health problems.
Effective treatment for bulimic teeth requires the disorder be addressed as well. Continued “purging” can damage restorations and may end up undoing all of the work you have put into protecting your teeth. We can discuss this with you in greater detail during your time in our care.
Anorexia Nervosa and Dental Erosion
Anorexia nervosa, commonly just called anorexia, is an eating disorder defined by a pattern of restriction. Unlike bulimia, where food is eaten and then thrown up, patients with anorexia restrict their intake of food. While this type of intentional starvation does not erode teeth with stomach acids, it can result in serious oral health problems.
Nutritional deficiency is the biggest concern for those with anorexia nervosa. A lack of proper nutrients can result in rapid tooth decay and increase risks for periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease that often results in tooth loss. Periodontitis is also linked to increased risks for heart attack and stroke, dementia, liver and kidney failure, and bone necrosis. Patients struggling with anorexia often experience degenerative arthritis in the jaw as well, which increases risks for TMJ and can result in a lifetime of pain.
Dry mouth, which increases risks for acid erosion, is a common consequence of anorexia. This, combined with nutritional deficiencies, is a leading cause of tooth loss in people struggling with this particular eating disorder.
As with bulimia, anorexia nervosa must be treated before or at the same time dental care takes place. Continued restriction will produce the same results and will almost certainly result in tooth loss, jaw shrinkage, and other serious oral health concerns.
Additional Causes of Dental Erosion
While incredibly important to address, eating disorders only account for 6% of dental erosion cases. The leading causes of enamel erosion are upper GI disorders (acid reflux) and consuming an acidic diet.
All foods and drinks that contain acids – citrus, caffeic, malic, tartaric, etc. – can damage the teeth. This problem is exacerbated when those foods or beverages are held in the mouth before being swallowed.
Patients with an upper GI disorder can achieve some relief through prescription and over the counter medications. Patients who consume a highly acidic diet can reduce damage by drinking through a straw and not holding these consumables in the mouth for extended periods of time.
Additional causes of dental erosion include:
- Bruxism (tooth grinding)
- Tooth decay
- Dry mouth
- Gum disease
- Excessive and vigorous tooth brushing
It is essential that you brush your teeth after eating acidic foods or drinking acidic beverages. It is equally essential that you wait for at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking to brush your teeth. This gives your saliva a chance to neutralize the acids and your enamel a chance to re-harden.
When you brush, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and nonabrasive toothpaste such as those from Remin Pro®, an incredibly effective line of oral health products available through our New York dental office. These steps will help prevent the removal of enamel and work to keep your teeth strong, healthy, and attractive.
If you struggle with bulimia, you can further protect your teeth by keeping a solution of baking soda and water in the refrigerator. When swished in the oral cavity immediately after vomiting, this solution can neutralize hydrochloric acid and help prevent the most severe erosion.
Treating Dental Erosion
Once teeth have been eroded, they must be covered to prevent sensitivity, reduce yellowing, and preserve structure. The most common solutions are:
- Porcelain veneers – placed over the front of teeth, veneers are sized, shaped, and colored to fit perfectly into your smile
- Dental bonding – applied in layers to eroded teeth, bonding can be used to rebuild structure, prevent additional damage, and restore appeal to the smile. Bonding is shaded to match adjacent teeth in appearance.
- Dental crowns – placed over the entire tooth, a crown will cover and protect the underlying structure from further damage. Like veneers, crowns are colored, shaped, and shaded to fit perfectly into your smile.
- Smile makeover – a combination of cosmetic and restorative dental treatments to protect, strengthen, and beautify your entire smile.
There is no single solution that will be ideal for the needs of every patient who is struggling with dental erosion. The best way to learn which option will work best for your needs is by calling NYC Smile Design at 212-452-3344 to schedule your consultation today.
Located in Manhattan, Dr. Elisa Mello and Dr. Ramin Tabib welcome patients from all surrounding areas of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.