You use your teeth every day, and some tooth wear over time is unavoidable. But there are some kinds of damage, like erosion and tooth cupping, that you can prevent by keeping up good oral habits and knowing the risks in what you eat, drink and do.
What Are These Pits in My Teeth?
Dental cupping occurs when acids in the mouth wear away enamel and dentin to form indentations, or "cups," in the teeth. Any acid damage to your teeth over time is known as erosion. Damage to the point of cupping is relatively rare, but any chemical or mechanical wear can cause pain and sensitivity in the places where the protective enamel has disappeared.
According to Dentagama, tooth wear is often divided into four categories of severity:
- Attrition is the natural wearing away of enamel caused by teeth rubbing against each other.
- Abrasion is the result of biomechanical forces like hard tooth brushing or chewing on pencils.
- Erosion damage is caused by acids in the mouth.
- Abfraction comes from more extreme force like grinding and clenching, and can cause notches in teeth.
The Causes of Tooth Erosion
Erosion is often a product of diet or lackluster oral care, but it can be caused by a variety of factors.
- Fruit juices, sodas and energy drinks. Certain beverages (including diet sodas and lemon water) are highly acidic and can lead to severe wear patterns if left on the teeth for too long. Many dentists advise you to finish these drinks quickly rather than sipping them, or use a straw to avoid the liquid washing over your teeth. Tooth cupping can occur when acids linger in a particular spot, softening both the enamel and dentin. RDH Magazine also warns against following the health trend of drinking or swishing with vinegar for the same reason.
- Oral habits and drug use. Any food or drug directly touching your teeth has the potential to dissolve tooth surfaces. The juices found in chewing or smokeless tobacco can create wear at the gumline from being placed in the cheek or in front of the lower front teeth. Hard drugs like cocaine and meth also wear away enamel and lead to dry mouth and tooth decay, writes the American Addiction Centers.
- Eating disorders. Acid damage from the purging of stomach contents associated with a problem like bulimia can do severe damage to your teeth. Malnutrition or vitamin deficiencies from not eating can also weaken the enamel. If you think you have an eating disorder, talk to your doctor or a counselor about forming a healthy eating plan and finding emotional support.
- Medications. Many common prescriptions can cause dry mouth (or xerostomia), which lowers the pH of the mouth without normal levels of saliva to help buffer acids. Oral inhalers used by people with allergies and asthma can also create a film on the teeth that can weaken enamel over time. Spear Education advises that patients should brush their teeth after using inhalers for an extended period of time.
Prevention and Treatment
In cases of severe erosion, your dentist may recommend restoring the teeth involved by bonding, or filling a portion with tooth-colored material the same way a chipped tooth is often repaired. For more extensive acid damage, you may need a series of crowns.
To prevent tooth erosion, maintain good oral health by brushing at least twice daily and flossing. See your dentist regularly, and be sure to ask about dietary and lifestyle changes that can help your mouth.