Once the outer enamel of your teeth begins to erode, the softer inside part of the tooth, called dentin, begins to wear away at a faster rate. Dentin is about 6 times softer than enamel, so the rate of wear typically speeds up once it is exposed, causing discomfort and sensitivity.
In most cases, your dentist can fix worn-down teeth through the following treatments:
- Dental bonding: Small areas of erosion can be treated by applying resin bonding to the tooth.
- Crowns: Larger areas of exposed dentin can be repaired through a combination of bonding, replacement crowns or other specialized operative techniques. Often, crown lengthening procedures are necessary along with dental crowns. This is because when the tooth is worn away, it continues to erupt, pulling the gums and bone with it. If not corrected, the inadequate tooth remains, compromising the aesthetics of the mouth.
What causes your teeth to wear down?
As people age, there is a certain amount of natural wear and tear on the teeth. However, in other cases, tooth wear may be pathologic, meaning that it’s beyond the scope of what is considered typical. This can have an impact on your chewing ability, cause aesthetic concerns, and become painful if a nerve is exposed.
There are three categories of tooth wear:
Attrition occurs when tooth wear is caused by frequent contact with other teeth, such as by clenching or grinding. It is the mechanical wearing down of the surfaces of teeth during tooth-to-tooth contact, causing the back teeth to become flatter and the front teeth to become shorter. Severe attrition of the front teeth can have a disfiguring effect on the face. It may infrequently cause sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks, as well as sweets.
Bruxism is the involuntary grinding and clenching of teeth, which can take place while you are awake but occurs more commonly when you are asleep. Major causes of bruxism are stress and anxiety, although in some cases it can be caused by the abnormal positioning of jaws and teeth (malocclusion). The effects of bruxism can be remedied through use of a nightguard if tooth wear is caught early. However, it often requires restorations if tooth wear is more severe.
Abrasion is the wearing away of the tooth surface caused by friction. This happens when teeth are brushed too vigorously in sweeping horizontal strokes or when the toothbrush bristles are too hard. Abrasion is often visible on the outer surfaces of the back teeth, with a wedge or V-shaped indentation of the tooth seen at the gum margin.
American Dental Association. Erosive Tooth Wear. https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/erosive-tooth-wear
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