Tooth Erosion - Watch What You Eat
While we take great care in maintaining our teeth with good oral hygiene habits like brushing and flossing, some of you might be surprised to know that many tooth problems can be caused by the food and drinks that we consume. While it is generally assumed that not taking chocolates is the right way to prevent teeth problems you might not be aware that many foods that we consume also give rise to problems other than decay. One such tooth problem initiated by certain foods that we consume is the problem of Tooth Erosion.
What exactly is Tooth Erosion?
Tooth Erosion is the loss of tooth structure caused due to the presence of acids in the food or drinks that we consume. This type of loss of tooth structure is different from the loss of tooth structure due to faulty tooth brushing (abrasion) or excessive grinding of the teeth (bruxism).
The Causes of Tooth Erosion
Many of the foods and drinks that we consume contain high quantities of acids like citric acid and phosphoric acid. These foods and drinks when consumed can have harmful effects on the tooth structure removing away vital layers of the tooth. This loss of tooth structure is called Tooth Erosion.
Tooth erosion can also be initiated by the presence of high quantity of sugar in the food or drinks that we consume. These sugars are used up by the bacteria present in the mouth. When they proliferate by using these sugars, the byproduct of the breakdown of these sugars is again an acid that has a de-mineralizing action on the tooth surface leading to tooth erosion.
Another cause of tooth erosion is because of acid reflux. People suffering from acidity problems have the problem of the acid rising up to the mouth from the stomach. The action of these stomach acids on the tooth causes loss of tooth structure and tooth erosion.
Tooth erosion is accentuated when high acid content foods are consumed and then the teeth are brushed. This is so because the tooth structure becomes softer due to the action of the acids. In such a state, when the teeth are brushed, there is an increase in the loss of tooth structure.
Steps to Prevent Tooth Erosion
As we all know the popular adage "Prevention is better than cure". This holds perfectly true when it comes to tooth erosion. Tooth erosion can be prevented by following some preventive care.
The best way to avoid tooth erosion is to avoid foods and drinks that have a high quantity of acids in them. Some of the foods and drinks that you can avoid include all kinds of soft drinks, energy drinks, some types of teas, fruit juices like that of orange, pineapple, grapes and lemon.
If you still like taking such high acid content food or drinks, it is best to take them at meal times so that the effects of the acid gets reduced. You can also develop the habit of swishing your mouth with water to wash away the acids from your mouth. Avoid taking these acid containing drinks during any sporting activities as the physical activity can make your mouth dry enhancing the ease at which these acids can lead to tooth erosion.
As brushing can accentuate the effects of tooth erosion caused by high acid food or drinks, it is best to avoid brushing right after consuming these foods. So, keep off brushing at least for around 30 minutes but remember to rinse your mouth thoroughly.
If you are in the habit of consuming only bottled water, you might not be receiving the adequate amount of fluoride in your diet. This can also increase the effects of tooth erosion as your teeth might not be as strong as you want it to be. In such a case, it is best to begin using fluoridated toothpaste or a mouth wash to compensate it.
If you are suffering from problems of acidity or reflux, it is best to consult a physician and seek reprieve from the condition as this can also lead to tooth erosion and problems of your teeth, not to forget other systemic problems.
The Effects of Tooth Erosion
Tooth erosion causes loss of tooth structure. When the outer layers of the tooth are lost, inner structures get exposed. These inner structures do not have the strength or the kind of insulation to thermal conductivity that the outer structures have. This can give rise to symptoms like sensitivity of the teeth.
In addition to sensitivity, you can also suffer from other problems in your teeth like developing fine cracks in your teeth, chipping away of the tooth structure, discoloration, and in severe case, pain and infection due to exposure of the pulp of the tooth.
Treatment of Tooth Erosion
As tooth erosion is generally a more generalized phenomenon, one method to overcome the symptoms from the problem is to use anti-sensitivity toothpaste. There are several options available to you such as toothpastes containing strontium chloride, potassium nitrate, etc. Of late, you even have mouth rinses that contain these ingredients in them.
Advanced cases will need corrective measures to help overcome the problem and to prevent further aggravation of the condition and loss of the tooth. These could be in the form of tooth restorations and in severe cases treatment with root canal therapy and placing dental crowns.
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