How does a dentist measure tooth erosion?

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Teeth can wear away in different ways including, but not limited to, erosion, attrition, abrasion, and bruxism. Erosion is a process where acids wear away the enamel on teeth. Excessive consumption of acidic foods and beverages are usually the primary culprit. For example soft drinks have high levels of phosphoric acid and citric acids. Citrus fruits like lemons or oranges can wear away teeth if a person is constantly sucking on them. Dry mouth or low salivary flow can cause the enamel to wear away faster as the buffering capacity of saliva is reduced or completely gone. Acid reflux, bulimia, GI problems, medications and genetics are other possible causes of erosion of teeth. See your dentist regularly to catch early signs of erosion.

Dentists measure the amount of erosion by comparing the amount of enamel present on each tooth surface. Eroded surfaces are usually shiny but deficient compared to the rest of the tooth. Once enamel is lost it cannot be brought back and the dentist may have to restore the tooth to protect the underlying dentin. Dentin is much softer then enamel and will wear away much quicker then enamel. Thus it must be protected with a restoration. 

Erosion is the loss of tooth structure due to dissolving by chemicals. The chemicals that cause erosion in the oral cavity are usually acidic foods, liquids or acid from your stomach that can reflux into your mouth. Dentists look for signs of erosion at your dental checkups because erosion can cause:

  1. The tips of your front teeth to appear thin or translucent.  
  2. Your teeth appear to be darker or more yellow. This is from the dissolving of enamel.
  3. Your teeth to change shape. The teeth have a smooth glassy appearance and can even be concave in shape.
  4. The chewing surfaces of your teeth to be flattened or pitted.
  5. Your fillings to appear to be rising out of the tooth due to the dental erosion occurring around the fillings. 
  6. Your teeth to be sensitive when eating hot, cold, or sweet foods. Other signs include pain when eating hot, cold, or sweet foods.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.