Tooth wear is the irreversible loss of tooth structure due to certain habits, most of which we can avoid. There is a certain level of wear throughout our lifetime, due to chewing and biting, that is considered normal. Some experience it as early as their teenage years, and it gradually worsens with age. Below are the different types of tooth wear, what they look like, what causes them, and how to avoid them.
Abrasion is the gradual loss of tooth enamel. This forms when a foreign object is moved against the tooth surface aggressively, such as a toothbrush. Brushing with too much force causes abrasion; receding the gums, exposing the roots (causing sensitivity), and making the teeth look longer. To avoid this, a soft bristled tooth brush is best used. Brush in a circular motion, not horizontal, not vertical. However, just because you are using a soft bristled toothbrush doesn’t mean you should use more force while brushing since the bristles are soft. Aggressively brushing with soft bristles can still lead to abrasion.
Attrition, like abrasion, is the gradual loss of enamel. This type of wear is caused by tooth to tooth contact. Clenching and bruxism (or grinding your teeth) are the main causes of attrition. This will cause your teeth to appear shorter over time. It’s best to treat your TMD (Temporomandibular Disorder) to stop clenching or grinding. Meanwhile, if not yet treated, it is best to wear a night guard while sleeping to protect the enamel from the grinding forces.
Erosion, the chemical loss of tooth structure, is a result of elevated extrinsic or intrinsic acid in the mouth. Some intrinsic causes include GERD, Bulimia, Chronic Alcoholism, etc. Extrinsic causes include a high-sugar diet, lifestyle, environmental and occupational risks, etc. It is important to know the causes, intrinsic or extrinsic, and address these to prevent further erosion of teeth.
Abfraction is the loss of tooth structure from flexural forces. They appear as wedges or V shaped dents near the gum area. They are not cavities, they are known as non-carious cervical lesions. However they do possess the same symptoms as a cavity. There are multiple contributing factors however excessive occlusal forces such as grinding are usually to blame. Orthodontic treatment may be done to align the bite and balance the occlusal forces. A mouthguard can also be worn to protect your teeth while you sleep. Lastly, a dental filling may also be placed in affected areas.