How to Prevent Wear and Tear to Teeth

Teeth have an outer layer known as enamel, which is the strongest substance in the human body. However, teeth can wear down with age. While a certain degree of tooth substance loss is expected, a lifetime of crushing, chewing, and continuous grinding can severely tear away the outer layer of enamel, and leave the sensitive pulp and nerves exposed.

Key takeaways:
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    Teeth wear or teeth substance loss increases with age and leads to loss of tooth structure, form, and function.
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    Tooth wear can vary depending on the cause. Addressing the reason behind teeth wear is the key to prevention.
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    Limiting acidic foods and drinks, control over stress, a correct brushing technique, and managing bruxism and GERD can help to preserve healthy teeth.

Alarmingly, the enamel is not comprised of living cells and thus cannot repair this damage, leading to serious dental disorders. The only way to ensure healthy teeth over the years is to prevent them from wearing out.

What do worn-out teeth look like?

Teeth wear also known as teeth substance loss (TSL) can affect the top (cusps and edges) and sides of teeth, depending on the cause of wear.

When tooth wear is due to continuous tooth to tooth grinding and clenching, teeth wear occurs from the top, flattening out the back teeth and exposing the inner dentine. The exposed dentine makes your teeth appear yellow and dull, increasing heat and cold sensitivity. With age, the height of your teeth is reduced, causing a shrunken jaw and a visible change in facial dimensions.

When teeth wear is due to faulty brushing, teeth can wear out from the outer sides (the sides facing the lips and cheeks) near the gums. This can take the shape of a wedge or V-shaped indentations on the teeth.

If the teeth wear is due to acidic drinks, the inner (tongue side) and outer sides of teeth can show signs of wearing. In a person suffering from eating disorders or reflux disorders, the inner side is more affected.

If you notice any sign of teeth wear, it's best to consult a dentist. A dentist will guide you on the exact cause of your teeth wear with a proper oral examination.

What are the causes of teeth wear?

There are mainly three categories of teeth wear, depending on the underlying cause.

Attrition

Attrition is often visible as well-defined worn facets on the surfaces of teeth in one jaw that correlate to matching facets on opposing teeth in the other jaw. Bruxism, or teeth grinding a main cause of teeth attrition often stems from stress and anxiety and affects many people. Some people may do this intentionally during the day, and sub-conscious teeth grinding overnight can affect the teeth severely. If left untreated, it causes enamel damage, tooth wear, jaw discomfort, and gum irritation.

Abrasion

Abrasion is induced by abrasive external items sliding or rubbing on the tooth surfaces. Using an abrasive toothpaste, using strong bristles, and brushing vigorously are typical reasons for abrasion. Toothpicks, miswaks (teeth cleaning twigs), and holding hair-pins between teeth can also cause it. These defects often resemble shallow cups along the gingival margin.

Erosion

Erosion occurs due to excess intake of acidic beverages or disease conditions that cause frequent acid regurgitation in the oral cavity, like gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and bulimia. Research shows that 29% of adults aged 18 to 35  show signs of erosion, owing to a striking rise in the consumption of acidic, fizzy drinks among the young generation. Erosion occurs gradually, and it is generally asymptomatic. The patient is unlikely to seek therapy until it reaches a severe form.

Finally, regardless of the cause, teeth wear lowers the quality of a person's life and is a leading cause of self-dissatisfaction among adults.

How to prevent tooth wear?

Prevention is based on identifying causes and detecting signs and symptoms early. Thus, ideally, preventing additional tooth deterioration requires removing the causal factors. Patient education can help slow the course of wear.

  • Diet. Patients must limit acidic drinks to meal times and consume neutral liquids such as milk and water throughout the day. When it comes to fruit juice, it is best to eat it once a day.
  • Right brushing technique. Brushing in horizontal strokes is a common cause of abrasion. Using too much force while brushing can be damaging too. It's good to consult a dentist and understand the correct brushing technique to prevent damage.
  • Protective splints/night guards. If you grind your teeth, especially at night, you might need a night guard. The night guard, similar to a mouth guard used by athletes, acts as a barrier between your top and bottom teeth, prevents grinding, and relaxes the jaw muscles. These are customized according to a person's needs and are one of the most preferred ways to discontinue the habit.
  • Stress control. This is key to getting rid of teeth clenching and grinding habits, and thus preventing teeth wear.

Can worn-out teeth be restored?

Teeth structure, once lost, is lost forever. The exciting part is that cosmetic dentists can repair worn teeth, restoring them to their original length, form, and function.

Dentists employ dental bonding, porcelain veneers, and crowns to restore teeth to their original condition. A dentist chooses a restorative technique based on the severity of teeth wear and esthetic considerations. These techniques include:

  • Resin bonding. Made of a soft, tooth-colored substance, can conceal mild teeth wear from the sides. It helps to reshape a tooth that has become chipped, malformed, or worn down.
  • Porcelain veneers. Made of tooth-colored hard shells, are a more lasting and stain-resistant solution for fixing worn-down teeth and other dental defects. It also corrects the length of the teeth.
  • Crowns. They cover the entire teeth surface. These are used for severe cases where teeth are damaged from all surfaces and lose their strength.

Prevention is better than a cure. It's best to learn about the types and causes of teeth wear and avoid habits and food items that can lead to it. Try not to wait until your teeth are severely damaged.

The prevalence of severe tooth wears in adults increases from 3% (at 20 years of age) to 17% (at 70 years of age). At young ages, teeth wear can often continue without any symptoms, so it's important to be aware of the condition, its causes, and how to prevent further damage. Avoiding harmful habits like teeth grinding and restricting the intake of acidic drinks can help your teeth remain healthy as you age. A dentist is the best person to guide you on what to do to restore your teeth functionally and esthetically.

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