dental care


Dental Erosion

by Rosalind Yeow, Dental Student
(Singapore City)

Dental Erosion

Dental Erosion

Dental erosion is the wearing away of the calcium layer that protects the crown of the tooth known as teeth enamel. Due to a chemical process that involves acid produced by certain food intakes, teeth acid erosion takes place and leaves the teeth in a distressed condition. Teeth enamel painlessly crumble turning the teeth yellowed and pitted.

The dentine structure and function becomes affected in such a way that will expose the nerve pulp. It will cause sensitivity and eventual weakening of the ligament that holds the tooth to the gums, leading to tooth decay and tooth loss.

It is different from dental caries, wherein tooth loss is caused by oral bacterial attacks, which cause the teeth to rot and decay.

Dental Erosion Statistical Data

A National Survey conducted in the UK revealed that more than 2,000 children are suffering from severe dental erosion, fifty percent of which are children between ages 5 to 6 years old. Twenty five percent are found to be already suffering from severe teeth acid erosion affecting dentine structure and function. Teeth enamel experts are alarmed at the findings and its increasing trend.

The University of Texas Health Science Center in the U.S. has unpublished reports of facts gathered by researchers from two cities in this state. Out of 900 children ranging from ages 10 to 14, 30% of them are suffering from dental erosion. In fact, healthy 15 year old student athletes have shown extensive teeth acid erosion due to large amounts of citrus juice and power sports drinks.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its report in 2007 has long suspected that the leading cause of cavities among preschool children is the constant intake of soda and juice and less of fluoridated water and milk.

Dental Erosion and Sources of Teeth Acids

According to teeth enamel experts, the sources of teeth acid erosions may either be extrinsic, or acids going into the mouth and intrinsic or acids that come out from stomach.

Extrinsic Dental Erosion Sources : they are usually food intakes or substances that enter through the mouth, such as:

1. Citrus juices, in fact they have more acid contents that fresh citrus fruits;

2. Citrus fruits high in teeth acids like lemons, melons and berries; and are harmful if taken twice or more in a day;

3. Foods that have high acidic contents such as pickles, ketchup, salad dressings, yogurts, and candies to name a few;

4. Citrus flavored sodas like Mountain Dew and 7-Up, are said to be more harmful the than the cola drinks, although soft drinks in general contain citric, phosphoric carbonic and other acids;

5. Chewable Vitamin C tablets that contain pH of about 2.0;

6. Substances that enter the mouth due to occupational exposure to certain industries such as: battery factories, ammunitions plant, manufacturers of automobiles, computers, sports equipment, dental bridges, paint spray, alkali and chlorine industries including competitive swimmers, dye manufacturers, hot mix asphalt batch plant, tile, ceramic, photographic, and chemical manufacturing industries or industries that make constant use of: zirconium, beryllium, mercury, silver, lead, silica, etc.

Intrinsic erosion sources : acid substances form part of regurgitated food that goes back to the mouth coming from the stomach through the esophageal sphincter due to certain health disorders like acid reflux or GERD and bulimia nervosa:

1. Acid Reflux: Food taken in may spill out of the stomach for several reasons and goes back to the mouth in the form of regurgitated food which contain the stomach acids. If the disorder has become chronic, the root cause of the problem is due to the weakening of the esophageal muscles wherein food being digested spills out of the stomach and moves upward back to the mouth.

2. Bulimia Nervosa : This is considered as a psychological disorder related to the eating habits of female individuals. It is described as binge eating where vomiting will be self-induced. This condition is often kept as a secret and dentists are usually the first to discover it. As a member of the medical profession, ethics will task the dentist to refer the matter to the patient's general medical practitioner or physician because this condition not only damages the dental health of the individual but also the life of the patient.

Dental Erosion and Ways to Avoid it

Eating of fresh fruits and juices rich in citric acid is also important to our health and overall well being. However, teeth enamel experts recommend that it is also wise to be aware of the amount of acids taken in during the day and about certain dental health care tips to lessen the teeth acid erosion that takes places:

1. Sodas, carbonated and sports drink as well as coffee, tea and alcoholic drinks should be taken in moderation if not eliminated from one?s diet. Cigarette and tobacco smoking on the other hand should be avoided.

2. Refrain from brushing your teeth immediately after chewing or drinking anything acidic to give the teeth a chance to re-mineralize.

3. Rinse your mouth with fluorinated water if possible, after eating or drinking anything acidic.

4. Never leave anything acidic in your mouth if you are about to sleep. Swallowing frequency during sleeping hours is lessened; hence, there is a notable decrease in saliva production which cannot help in neutralizing any acids left in the mouth during this period.

5. Never let a toddler go to sleep with a bottle of fruit juice in his mouth. It is highly recommended that a bottle of water be used as a substitute instead.

6. Acidic drinks like colas, sodas and other forms of soft drinks are best belted down rather than sipped to avoid acids from lingering in the mouth.

7. Rinse and clean your mouth before using a mouth guard.

8. Avoid hard candies and chewable vitamins which tend to leave more acid substances in your mouth.

Dental erosion is probably hard to prevent since our body also needs the citric acids from fruits, as supplement that can strengthen our natural immunities. However, taking enough precautionary measures can at least arrest the rapid rate by which teeth enamel erodes.

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