How to deal with dental erosion

Use fluoride toothpaste since fluoride strengthens teeth. / Net photo

Dental erosion can be a bit irritating. Dentists refer to dental erosion as the loss of tooth enamel caused by acid attack. When the enamel has worn away, it can lead to pain and sensitivity.

Dr. AbduKadir Mamataliev, a dentist at Deva Medical Center, Nyarutarama, says enamel is the thin outer covering of the tooth. This tough shell is the hardest tissue in the human body. Enamel covers the crown which is the part of the tooth that’s visible outside of the gums.

He notes, because the enamel is translucent, you can see light through it. But the main portion of the tooth, the dentin, is the part that’s responsible for your tooth color — whether white, off white, grey, or yellowish. Sometimes coffee, tea, soda, red wine, fruit juices, and cigarettes stain the enamel on your teeth.

Research shows that dental erosion is defined as “loss of dental hard tissue by a chemical process that does not involve the influence of bacteria”. It occurs as a result of acidic attacks during simultaneous unsaturation of both hydroxyl—and fluor-apatite in saliva, causing loss of dental hard tissue, layer by layer. Early enamel erosion causes no clinical discoloration or softening of the tooth surface and is, therefore, in the clinical situation, difficult to detect both visually and by tactile examination.

According to research, any patient's symptoms, in these early stages, are often absent or very limited. More pronounced changes in macromorphology occur when the erosive damage is more severe. The condition will then be easier to recognize and more likely to present symptoms as well as affecting the oral health-related quality of life of patients. 

CAUSES

For Mamataliev, excessive soft drink consumption (high levels of phosphoric and citric acids), fruit drinks (some acids in fruit drinks are more erosive than battery acid), dry mouth or low salivary flow (xerostomia), diet (high in sugar and starches), acid reflux disease (GERD), gastrointestinal problems, medications ( aspirin, antihistamines ), genetics (inherited conditions), environmental factors (friction, wear and tear, stress, and corrosion) can cause dental erosion.

SIGNS ANS SYMPTOMS

Mamataliev says that sensitivity could be one of the signs of dental erosion, certain foods (sweets) and temperatures of foods (hot or cold) may cause a twinge of pain in the early stage of enamel erosion.

Discoloration can also be a sign, as the enamel erodes and more dentin is exposed, the teeth may appear yellow, he says.

“Cracks and chips are evident that one has dental erosion (the edges of teeth become rougher, irregular, and jagged as enamel erodes), severe, painful sensitivity. In later stages of enamel erosion, teeth become extremely sensitive to temperatures and sweets. You may feel a painful jolt that takes your breath away,” he notes.

PREVENTION

To prevent enamel loss and keep teeth healthy, Mamataliev says, be sure to brush, floss, and rinse with a fluoride and antiseptic, mouthwash daily. See your dentist every six months for regular check-ups and cleaning.

He adds that one can also try the following; eliminate highly acidic foods and drinks from your diet such as carbonated sodas, lemons, and other citrus fruits and juices. Rinse your mouth immediately with clear water after eating acidic foods or drinking acidic drinks.

Mamataliev urges the use of a straw when someone is drinking acidic drinks as the straw pushes the liquid to the back of the mouth, avoiding your teeth.

He further says, avoid snacking unless you are able to rinse your mouth and brush teeth. Chew sugar-free gum between meals. Chewing gum boosts saliva production up to 10 times the normal flow. Saliva helps strengthen teeth with important minerals. Be sure to select sugar-free gum with xylitol, which is shown to reduce acids in beverages and foods.

The dental expert also advises drinking more water throughout the day if you have low saliva volume or dry mouth. Use fluoride toothpaste since fluoride strengthens teeth.

TREATMENT

Mamataliev explains that regular visits to your dentist for routine cleaning and polishing can help remove most surface stains and make sure your teeth stay healthy.

If the enamel loss is significant, the dentist may recommend covering the tooth with a crown or veneer. The crown may protect the tooth from further decay, he says.

“Dental treatment is costly, averaging five percent of total health expenditure and 20 percent of out-of-pocket health expenditure in most high-income countries. The oral health care demands are beyond the capacities of the health care systems in most low-and middle-income countries,” WHO reports.

editorial@newtimesrwanda.com

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