What is it?
As well as being damaged by decay, your teeth can be 'eaten away' (eroded) by acids in the mouth. The acids may come from food and drink or, sometimes, from your stomach. Acids dissolve minerals out of the hard enamel surface, making the teeth thin. The teeth can then become extra sensitive to hot and cold food and drink.
Erosion can also be linked to drinking a lot of acidic drinks, for example, fizzy drinks ('diet' drinks are just as bad), acidic fruits drinks, and 'sports' drinks. Dentists look for erosion in teenagers especially, and may ask how much of these types of drinks they drink.
Some people suffer from erosion more than others. People with eating disorders may suffer from erosion because stomach acids attack the teeth. Dentists may ask about eating disorders if they see teeth that are very badly eroded.
Can I prevent erosion?
You can protect teeth from erosion by being careful how you use acidic drinks.
- Drink them less often;
- Drink them quickly;
- Drink them cold;
- Use a straw so that the drink misses your teeth.
Some foods are acidic too - for example, pickles.
Because acids temporarily soften the tooth, don't brush your teeth immediately after eating or drinking something acidic. If you can, rinse your mouth with water instead and brush your teeth later (if possible 20 or 30 minutes after having an acidic food or drink in your mouth).
Dentists tell you to brush your teeth twice a day (twice a day is enough if you do it thoroughly), and always use fluoride toothpaste. Like teeth which are attacked by decay, eroded teeth can use the minerals in saliva to mend themselves. Fluoride helps this process.
Can my dentist treat erosion?
Because erosion attacks all of a tooth's surfaces, you may not notice it at first. Sometimes, the teeth can be weakened so much that they hav to be protected with crowns or veneers which replaces the lost tooth surface.