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Tooth enamel erosion and restoration

What is tooth enamel erosion?

Tooth enamel is the hard coating of the teeth. If this gets worn away it is called tooth enamel erosion or dental erosion.

What causes tooth enamel erosion?

Acid in food and drink attacks the enamel on the teeth and is the main cause of dental erosion. Saliva in the mouth works hard to get rid of acid from the mouth to protect the teeth. However, over time too much acidic food and drink, and problems with tooth brushing, means saliva's repair work cannot cope, and slowly little bits of enamel are eroded away.

To begin with teeth may look more stained, but further exposure of the dentine beneath the enamel makes teeth more sensitive and painful when exposed to hot, cold or acidic food and drink.

Some other causes of tooth enamel erosion include:

Does tooth enamel restore or repair itself?

Saliva does its best to stop acid attacking the teeth so that the enamel can repair itself.

Can tooth enamel erosion be reversed?

Once your dentist detects signs of tooth enamel erosion they may recommend extra oral hygiene measures, such as mouthwash, fluoride varnish treatment or a different toothpaste to help halt it.

Diet changes may also be recommended.

What can I do about tooth enamel erosion?

The Oral Health Foundation recommends these steps to help prevent dental erosion:

  • Limit acidic and sugary food and drinks to main mealtimes
  • Use a straw with acidic cold drinks to keep them away from teeth and don't swish them around the mouth before swallowing
  • Have some milk or cheese after your meal to help counter the acid
  • Chew some sugar-free gum after eating to encourage saliva
  • After brushing your teeth, let their mineral content recover for at least an hour before having acidic food or drink
  • Brush teeth correctly twice a day, especially last thing at night.

How is tooth enamel loss repaired?

If erosion is advanced, restoration treatment may be recommended using a bonded filling material or veneers.

How much does tooth enamel restoration cost?

This will vary depending on how much work needs to be done, whether it can be done by an NHS dentist, and may differ from dentist to dentist and where you live if it is a private treatment.

Veneers are usually considered a cosmetic procedure and not an NHS treatment.

Get a written quote before going ahead with restoration work.

Is dental erosion all I have to worry about to protect my teeth?

No. Erosion from acids is just one way the teeth are attacked. Abrasion also affects the surface of the teeth, and this may be due to reasons such as grinding teeth and brushing teeth too hard.

Allowing plaque and tartar to build up on teeth also makes them more susceptible to attack and problems.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on September 02, 2016

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