Like anything, teeth have the propensity to wear away over time. Think of it like a riverbank. After constant water hitting the bank, it begins to erode the rocks, making them shiny and smooth to the touch. Sometimes, there are additional forces, such as wondering animals or heavy rainfall and floods, that cause chunks of the riverbank to come loose and be taken downstream. Something very similar happens to our teeth. However, wearing away the layers of our teeth is not beneficial to our oral health.
When we have a can of pop, something that contains many chemicals, or gastric reflux (which we have all experienced as heartburn), it wears away the outer layer of the tooth. Eventually, chemical erosion can cause the dentin to be exposed (a layer of the tooth that is usually slightly yellow in colour). This particular mode of tooth wear is called Dental Erosion.
Just like the riverbank, aggressive action causes chunks to fall away. The most common cause of the second mode of tooth wear, abrasion, is due to improper technique when brushing teeth and/or abrasive content in toothpaste. Abrasion can also be caused when teeth are used as a tool (opening packages or bottles etc.), resulting in the outer layer stripped or even chipped off.
The last mode of tooth wear is Attrition. Over our lifetime, normal physiological wear on our teeth is usually within the range of 40 microns per year. Our teeth should only touch approximately 20 minutes in a given 24 hour period (when we eat our food and when we are swallowing). The rest of the time, our teeth should be apart by a few millimeters. This is called freeway space. If we are putting our teeth together for a greater duration of time, and/or with greater forces during the day or at night, then we will have increased wear. With these individuals, we may sometimes observe overly smooth and shiny areas on the teeth, likely caused by grinding and clenching of the teeth, or a misaligned bite.
Please do not hesitate to come talk us regarding any concerns you may have about tooth wear. We are happy to guide you towards the next steps, giving you individualized advice and treatment options.
Braeside Dental Centre