Your body undergoes dramatic changes as you age, not least of which are those that affect your teeth. It is not uncommon to see patients whose teeth have become much shorter with the passing years. This may not seem like a major concern, but it is important to understand the effects of these changes and what they may mean for your oral health. At A New Smile Dental Group, we offer treatments to restore the smiles of patients who require tooth repair in San Fernando Valley, CA.
Three Types of Wear and Tear
We categorize the three primary causes of wear on teeth as abrasion, attrition, or erosion:
Abrasion occurs when the tooth structure experiences wear through contact with something in the mouth, be it a toothbrush used too aggressively, the use of an abrasive toothpaste, or even a particularly hard morsel of food. Certain bad habits contribute to wear by abrasion; these include biting your fingernails, nibbling on pencils or pens, or treating your teeth as tools.
When a tooth is damaged by another tooth or teeth, we call this attrition. Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is the most common cause of attrition. Disorders of the temporomandibular joints (TMJs) have also been linked to tooth-on-tooth wear. After all, the protective enamel that covers each tooth happens to be the hardest mineral substance found in the human body—more so than bone, even. You can see how such a hard surface could inflict damage on other teeth.
Loss of the tooth structure due to acidity is called either corrosion or erosion. When these acids are produced by bacteria, the tooth enamel is weakened, resulting in a cavity that requires a filling. Acid may be introduced to the mouth in other ways, too, such as through gastroesophageal reflux. A diet that is high in acidic foods and beverages can also affect the enamel.
Treating Worn-Down Teeth
The appropriate treatment plan varies depending on the cause of the damage. Dental crowns and veneers are commonly used to restore the size, shape, and structure of damaged teeth. Your dentist will ask you about your hygiene regimen, habits, and oral care products to determine whether abrasion is to blame. Sometimes the treatment is as simple as changing from a hard-bristled toothbrush to one with soft bristles.
If your teeth have suffered because of attrition, your dentist will most likely recommend a special, custom-fit oral appliance to protect the teeth. These devices look and function much like the mouthguards worn by athletes and are worn at night while you sleep.
Several steps can be taken to reduce damage caused by corrosion. In some cases, fluoride treatment is used to strengthen and restore the enamel. Cutting down on acidic foods and drinks is effective. After consuming something acidic, your dentists recommend thoroughly rinsing your mouth with water. Don’t brush your teeth until 30 minutes have passed; this could inflict damage. You can also drink milk, which serves as a buffer.