The enamel, which is the outermost layer of your teeth, is tough. The enamel protects your teeth from both physical trauma and bacterial attacks. Unfortunately, the enamel can also suffer damage that weakens its protective properties. Below are some common forms of enamel damage.
Enamel corrosion is a form of enamel damage that occurs when you expose your teeth to acidic substances. The enamel is mostly calcium and phosphate ions. These inorganic minerals easily dissolve in acid. Here are common causes of enamel corrosion:
- Taking acidic medication
- Taking acidic drinks or food
- Frequent vomiting
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
The last two expose your teeth to your stomach contents, which are acidic. However, anything acidic can dissolve your enamel and corrode your teeth.
Your teeth are hard, but they are destructible. Even the normal friction between your teeth (such as the friction between teeth on opposing jaws) damages the enamel. Dentists refer to this form of enamel damage as attrition.
Bruxism, which involves chronic teeth clenching and grinding, is a classic cause of enamel attrition. Bruxism can damage your teeth even while you are sleeping. The damage is not instantaneous — it occurs after an extended period of bruxism.
Enamel abrasion is roughly the same as enamel erosion — both involve physical removal of teeth minerals. The main difference between the two is that attrition occurs due to friction between teeth while abrasion occurs due to erosion between your teeth and another object.
Here are classic causes of dental abrasion:
- Using a hard-bristled toothbrush on your teeth
- Brushing your teeth too hard or too vigorously
- Chewing your fingernails
- Biting on hard objects, such as pens or bottle tops
Again, the damage will occur over time, which means you can prevent abrasion if you arrest the offending habit in time.
Enamel erosion is not the only form of enamel damage to worry about. Your enamel can also crack or fracture. A fractured tooth is just as bad as a worn tooth because the fractures or cracks expose the inner tooth tissues to bacteria.
Common causes of tooth fractures or cracks include:
- Damaged dental fillings
- Trauma from accidents, such as sports injuries
- Biting on hard objects, such as ice
As you can see, many of the issues that can cause other forms of enamel damage can also cause abfraction.
Enamel damage is barely noticeable in its early stages. This is one more reason to get regular dental exams. Don't despair if your enamel is already damaged — consult your dentist for treatment options to reverse or deal with the damage.
For more information, contact a local dental service today.