Worn or chipped teeth can be a sign of an underlying issue
Lets talk about worn or chipped teeth. Teeth are naturally very strong as they are coated with super-tough enamel – one of the hardest substances in our bodies. They are designed to withstand the significant forces of cutting through and grinding up the food we eat … and we eat some pretty tough stuff.
This makes teeth sound pretty invincible, but we all know that teeth do indeed chip, wear and break. The question that begs to be asked next is, why?
There are two types of tooth wear: mechanical and chemical.
Mechanical wear is caused by abrasion. Habits such as pen biting can contribute to mechanical wear, but the most common cause is tooth on tooth contact. Interestingly, our teeth don’t touch when we chew as there is food between them teeth. They only come into contact with each other when we swallow, or if we clench or grind our teeth.
Tooth clenching and grinding (also known as bruxism) is a subconscious activity that can put undue stress on your teeth. While it can occur during the day, it is most damaging at night. Why? At night there is less saliva flow to lubricate your teeth. Another reason is because the guys in your brain that tell you how much force your are generating don’t work nights so the biting pressure can be much greater.
This type of wear could be responsible for worn or chipped teeth.
Chemical wear is usually caused by acid erosion. Acids can come from either your stomach or your diet and they can do a number on your enamel.
- Stomach acids can make their way to your mouth due to medical issues like acid reflux disease or bulimia.
- Foods such as citrus fruits, soda, candy, and wine can also damage your tooth enamel and impact the longevity of your teeth.
Once the hard enamel is worn through, the softer inner part of the tooth, the dentin is exposed. Once the dentin is exposed, it wears away at a much higher rate.
This type of wear could also contribute to worn or chipped teeth.
You may have tooth wear and not even realize it
Tooth wear is slow and insidious, and many people are unaware of of it until it becomes quite advanced and obvious, yet most adults show some signs of wear.
How do you determine if your teeth are wearing? Take a look at your smile.
- Has it changed?
- Do you notice small chips and fractures?
- Are the edges no longer even?
- Are your teeth getting shorter?
- Has the enamel on your lower teeth been worn away?
These are all signs, you likely are experiencing tooth wear.
Keep your teeth healthy and strong
Our amazing teeth are intended to last us a lifetime, but they need care. Diligent brushing and flossing, and scheduling preventive dental exams and regular hygiene appointments are actions you can take to protect your teeth.
If teeth wear is caused by an overbite, malocclusion or teeth grinding, dental treatment could help. By addressing the root cause of the problem with a thorough examination, your dentist can determine an appropriate treatment such as:
- A night guard to help prevent nighttime tooth damage.
- Orthodontic treatment such as Invisalign to create room for normal jaw movement.
- A bite adjustment to help prevent future wear can be effective in some cases
- Dental bonding, crowns or veneers to restore worn teeth
The sooner you address tooth wear the better. Early treatment is usually easier, cheaper and more effective.