What is tooth wear? Hearing about tooth wear can be concerning and confusing, so we want to break down for you the 4 types of teeth wear we observe. Being aware of ways you may be excessively wearing your teeth is important as we want to keep our teeth for life. As dental professionals, we hope to help you understand, prevent and repair tooth wear if needed.
There are 4 main types of tooth wear, they can occur individually or at the same times as one another. Always speak to your dental professional if you have questions about your tooth wear.
Attrition is a common form of tooth wear usually associated with teeth grinding and clenching. This form of tooth wear can be identified by viewing the tip of the teeth for signs of flattening and loss of the vertical height of the tooth. When our teeth become severely worn, fillings or porcelain veneers and onlays may be an option to build the teeth up to their previous size and improve aesthetics.
A good option that you may find works well to reduce wear from grinding while we sleep is a splint. It works like a sports mouthguard but is more compact and made of harder material and is worn over the teeth. It allows any wear that would normally occur to our teeth to instead happen to the splint. A physiotherapist can assist with treating the affected muscles from grinding and clenching. Heat packs, anti-inflammatories, a soft diet, and resting the muscles of the jaw may assist reduce the pain or discomfort we can experience. Some dentists can even offer muscle relaxing injections that reduce the ability of the jaw to contract with excessive force. This service is currently available at our Emerald and Mater Hill clinics.
If you notice that you grind or clench regularly it is important to discuss this with your dental professional.
Abrasion, also known as toothbrush abrasion, is a type of wear that is commonly caused by excessive brushing or scrubbing on the teeth and gum. Once the root or dentine is exposed it is more prone to sensitivity. While we may be trying our best to clean and remove all the bacteria from our teeth, it is important to be aware that our toothbrushes can cause damage if we are scrubbing or using poor technique. Using a soft toothbrush is recommended for our daily cleaning as it is less harsh and reduces our risk of causing abrasive wear to our teeth. Gentle brushing in circular motions to massage the gums is more effective at removing plaque than using a scrubbing motion. It can be tricky to get out of the habit of scrubbing our teeth but with persistence, practising, and modifying our technique we hope to form new and more tooth-friendly habits.
What else can cause abrasion wear on the teeth besides a toothbrush? Other habits we are doing can also cause wear on the teeth. These include chewing on pens, pencils or other things. Lip or tongue pierces can also wear on the teeth as they are constantly rubbing on the gums and tooth’s surface. Removing the cause of the habit helps to reduce the damaging wear being caused. Chewing may be a habit we have developed to cope with stress or while we concentrate and will make a stop or reduce this. Lip and tongue piercing would ideally stop being used or reduce wearing time. Sensitive areas caused by abrasion can be sealed over with fillings if the lesions are getting deep. If the only issue is gum recession and sensitivity, then treating them by using special desensitising toothpaste is a good option.
Tooth Erosion can be caused internally within the body (intrinsic) or from substances we put into the body (extrinsic). The intrinsic factor which may cause tooth erosion includes gastric reflux, heartburn, excessive vomiting, alcoholism, or dry mouth syndrome. If we are pregnant, we are at an increased risk of morning sickness and therefore an increased risk of erosion. Management of any of these conditions with your Doctor or GP is important in reducing erosive wear caused by these conditions.
Extrinsic causes are the substances we put into our bodies that have high acidity. These acids over continual and frequent consumption can slowly wear on the teeth. Food and drinks we have that are highly acidic include soft drinks, juice, no sugar soft drinks, lemons, limes, oranges, sports drinks, and energy drinks. Lately, we have observed an increase in erosion caused by the consumption of apple cider vinegar and kombucha. These, along with lemon in water are particularly concerning as they are often thought to be healthy dietary options. To assist with reducing wear for both intrinsic and extrinsic erosion rinsing is important to reduce the time acids sit onto the teeth, and do not brush immediately. Reducing intake of acidic food and drinks will also help reduce the erosion of our teeth. Areas that have already been greatly affected by erosion or that are sensitive can be covered with fillings. The use of more specialised dental tooth pastes or products such as tooth mousse is helpful to counteract some of the impacts of erosion.
Abfraction can occur on our teeth when lots of heavy forces are applied to the tooth. This causes the tooth to flex and in some cases fracture pieces of the tooth near the gum resulting in abfraction. A dental professional can identify this as a triangular wedged shape near the gum line. It can appear a lot like certain patterns of erosion but is thought to be caused by clenching. There can be many factors causing abfraction and it can be linked to other types of tooth wear. Fillings can be used to cover areas of missing tooth structure. Causes would need to be identified and managed as needed by a dental professional.
As you can see, dental problems are not just limited to decay or cavities. Speak to your dental professional if you have concerns about your own tooth wear and ways we can help you manage it. Most dental disease is preventable and getting the best education on how to reduce these issues will help you keep healthy teeth for life.