Simple Steps To Better Dental Health
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Featuring consumer information from Columbia School of Dental & Oral Surgery
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Step 1 Prevent ProblemsSimplestepsPrevent Problems
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Tooth Abrasion and Tooth Erosion

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space placeholder.What Is It?.
space placeholder.Symptoms.
space placeholder.Diagnosis.
space placeholder.Expected Duration.
space placeholder.Prevention.
space placeholder.Treatment.
space placeholder.When To Call a Professional.
space placeholder.Prognosis.
space placeholder.Additional Info.
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space placeholder.What Is It?
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Abrasion and erosion are two types of damage that can wear away the tooth's outer covering, the enamel. Sometimes they also affect deeper parts of the tooth.

Tooth abrasion is caused by something rubbing or scraping against the teeth. Brushing too hard is a common cause of abrasion. Toothpicks can cause abrasion. So can partial dentures or retainers that you can remove.

Chemicals such as acids cause tooth erosion. Usually the acids are in citrus fruits and other foods. Stomach acids also can cause erosion if they come up into the throat and mouth. This problem is called acid reflux. People with the eating disorder bulimia can get tooth erosion because of repeated vomiting. Even the chlorine and other chemicals in a swimming pool can cause erosion over time.

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space placeholder.Symptoms
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Toothbrush abrasion causes V-shaped notches in the lower third of the teeth, near the gumline. Similar notches also can occur as a result of forces on the chewing surface of the teeth. These are called abfraction lesions. They have a different cause from abrasion, but can make the notching worse. Notches from abrasion by toothpicks may occur between the teeth.

Tooth erosion looks different from abrasion. Erosion leaves a smooth, scooped out area on the tooth surface.

Both abrasion and erosion can make teeth more sensitive to sweet, hot or cold foods and drinks. The problem may be worse if the dentin under the enamel is exposed. Dentin protects the innermost part of the tooth, the pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels.

Abrasion and erosion also can affect how your teeth look.

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space placeholder.Diagnosis
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Your dentist can examine your teeth to see if you have tooth abrasion or erosion. Sometimes they are diagnosed after the teeth become sensitive to temperature or sweet foods.

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space placeholder.Expected Duration
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Once the cause of the erosion or abrasion is found and stopped, the process usually ends. More treatment may be needed to fix the tooth and stop the symptoms.

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space placeholder.Prevention
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To help prevent tooth abrasion and erosion:
  • Avoid having many foods or drinks that contain acids.
  • Do not press too hard when brushing your teeth. Use only a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Use dental floss and toothpicks properly.

If don't know the proper techniques, your dentist or dental hygienist can help.

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space placeholder.Treatment
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Treatment for erosion and abrasion depends on how bad the damage is. If you have a large defect, you'll likely want to have the tooth fixed. If there is little damage, and your tooth is not sensitive, you may not need treatment.

For sensitive teeth, your dentist may recommend a fluoride gel or rinse to use at home. If you need your teeth fixed, your dentist will use a tooth-colored material to replace the area that has worn away. Two types of materials are used:

  • Composites (plastic fillings)
  • Glass ionomers

Your dentist or dental hygienist may also apply a fluoride varnish to the teeth.

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space placeholder.When To Call a Professional
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If you notice any notches or scooped-out areas on your teeth, talk to your dentist. Also call if your teeth feel sensitive. The sooner the problem is found, the sooner the damage can be halted.

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space placeholder.Prognosis
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The prognosis is excellent if the problem is caught early, and the cause is eliminated. If the process is allowed to continue, it can damage the center of the tooth, the pulp. The more damage is done, the more work will be needed to correct the problem.

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space placeholder.Additional Info
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American Association of Endodontists
211 E. Chicago Ave.
Suite 1100
Chicago, IL 60611-2691
Toll-Free: 800-872-3636 Phone: 312-266-7255

American Dental Association
211 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611-2678
Phone: 312-440-2500
Fax: 312-440-2800

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