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Enamel Erosion: Things To Know

Enamel Erosion: Summary Overview

  • Description: Enamel thinning from overexposure to acids.

  • Cause: Acidic diet; Bulimia nervosa; Morning sickness vomiting.

  • Treatment: Dental bonding; Veneers; Crowns.

  • Prevention: Minimize acidic intake; Frequent rinsing.

  • Outlook: Good because it is treatable.


What is Enamel Erosion?

Enamel erosion is irreversible thinning of the tooth enamel from overexposure to acidic challenges, usually from an excessive acidic diet. It is non-reversible and once the erosion has occurred, the damage is now permanent.


Yes, if you have this condition it means you've permanently lost enamel.


What it looks like: Eroded enamel looks like missing enamel and a tell-tale sign is when you start seeing yellow spots/splotches on your tooth. The reason is because once the enamel has eroded away, it will reveal the layer underneath which is the dentin (yellow in color).


Enamel erosion on chewing surface of molar

Where it can occur on the tooth: Where the acidic erosion occurs will often give clues as to the etiology of what is causing it.

  • Chewing surface - Acidic diet.

  • Tongue side - Typically from vomiting.

  • Cheek/Lip side - Acidic foods.


Tongue side enamel erosion
Tongue side enamel erosion

Cheek/Lip side enamel erosion
Cheek/Lip side enamel erosion

In summary, appearance wise the tooth will start looking more yellow if the enamel layer has become eroded.


Enamel Erosion Stages

Enamel erosion can progress through stages as it becomes more severe, typically denoted by loss of more and more enamel. The more yellow dentin you can see on the tooth will signify the severity of the condition.


Stage 1: Mild erosion

The beginning/early stages of mild erosion is when some of the enamel has eroded away but not completely. You can see some yellow showing through but there is still some enamel left.


mild enamel erosion of molar
Mild erosion

At this stage, the tooth usually does not experience sensitivity since some enamel is still present.


Stage 2: Moderate erosion

Moderate enamel erosion is when the enamel has completely eroded away and you can visually see the yellow dentin layer.


Moderate enamel erosion showing yellow dentin
Moderate erosion

Teeth can begin to get sensitive at this stage.


Stage 3: Severe erosion

Severe erosion of the enamel is when large portions of dentin can be visibly seen on the tooth. The entire teeth will begin to look very yellow since the erosion has occurred on a large surface area.


Severe enamel erosion on molar chewing surface
Severe erosion

We'd be surprised if you weren't feeling sensitivity at this point. This is also a cosmetic issue since eroded enamel looks very poor aesthetically.


 

Cause

Erosion of the enamel can be caused by an overly acidic diet, bulimia nervosa, and morning sickness vomiting.

  • Acidic diet. A diet high in low pH foods (spicy, sour, sweet) will increase the chances of your enamel becoming eroded. The constant onslaught of acids will overwhelm your mouth's ability to remineralize demineralized enamel from acid exposure.

  • Bulimia. An eating disorder where the individual induces vomiting. All of that stomach acid constantly coming up and coating your teeth will erode them.

  • Morning sickness vomiting. Rare but frequent vomiting from morning sickness can cause the teeth to become eroded as well. This usually happens in very severe cases.


Ultimately, the etiology revolves around the enamel coming into contact with acids.


Erosion mechanism

The enamel will erode when it is frequently subjected to acid exposure. It begins as enamel demineralization but eventually progresses to complete enamel loss.


The erosion mechanism or rather demineralization mechanism is initiated once the pH in the mouth drops below 5.5 which is considered the critical pH level.


demineralization and remineralization of tooth enamel
Credit: Adam Hellen

Of course, the tooth can also repair itself via remineralization if the pH rises above 5.5 which is why a concise way to think of this is: net pH over time.


In other words, the more often or frequently you eat acidic foods or subject your teeth acidic challenges, the more likely you will have erosion of teeth.


 

Treatment

The erosion of enamel is an irreversible process so the only viable treatment for it would be getting a type of restorative dental procedure with your dentist.


Restorative options for eroded enamel:

  • Bonding. For mild erosion, a layer of composite can be bonded onto the tooth which has suffered enamel loss.

  • Veneers. For moderate erosion, porcelain veneers is preferred because it can cover and restore roughly half of the tooth surface area.

  • Crowns. For severe erosion that has affected half or more of the tooth, a full coverage dental crown will be required to restore its integrity.


Yes, you must see a dentist in order to fix this condition. There is no natural way to regrow the loss enamel, that is currently impossible without professional intervention.


 

Prevention

Best practices on how to minimize enamel erosion:

  • Minimize acidic foods. Reducing or avoiding intake of acidic foods/beverages will certainly help minimize this condition from occurring. The best cure is prevention!

  • Rinsing after meals. Rinsing for 1 min after each meal can help wash away acids that may be plastered to your teeth surfaces. It will also help raise the pH back to neutral.

  • Use remineralization toothpaste. Either fluoride or hydroxyapatite based toothpastes can help expedite remineralization or repair of demineralized teeth. This can delay or reverse the very beginnings of erosion.

  • Calcium and phosphate. These are the quintessential tooth minerals that are required for enamel repair. Consuming an adequate diet of these two will help!


To be clear, once you've loss the enamel it will not grow back so these tips are how to prevent further damage to your teeth.


 

Outlook

Eroded teeth that have been properly restored by your dentist will last you a long time. Of course if you continue to erode them, you may end up losing them and needing either implants or dentures!


If you're afflicted by this dental condition, our dentists in Long Island City can help you restore the lost enamel. Or if you don't live in New York, you should find someone close to you.

Kommentare


David Chen 200 x 200.jpg

About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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