Dental erosion (tooth erosion) is the irreversible loss of tooth enamel due to chemical processes that do not involve bacterial action.
Tooth enamel is a mineralized hard tissue that covers and protects the tooth. It is the hardest tissue of human body but it can be chemically dissolved in an acidic environment. The acids that cause dental erosion may come from intrinsic (e.g., gastroesophageal reflux, vomiting) or extrinsic sources (e.g., acidic beverages, citrus fruits).
The tooth enamel loss caused by the acids produced by dental plaque bacteria (tooth decay) is not dental erosion. Other forms of tooth enamel loss caused by mechanical and not chemical factors are tooth abrasion and tooth attrition.
Tooth erosion is a slow progressive process that leads to the loss of the protective hard tissues of the tooth caused by exposure to acids for long periods of time.
Modern life-style and dietary habits are responsible for a sharp increase in the prevalence of dental erosion, especially in the young population of developed countries. Teeth erosion is becoming increasingly common and can have long-term consequences for the patient's dental health.
Researchers have warned people to beware of the damage that acidic beverages have on teeth. Yet, for some, the damage and problems associated with drinking sodas, citric juices or certain tea may have already begun to take effect. The question remains: What can be done to restore teeth already affected?
In a recent study that appeared in the May/June 2009 issue of General Dentistry, the AGD's clinical, peer-reviewed journal, lead author, Mohamed A. Bassiouny, DMD, MSc., PhD, outlined the acidic content of beverages, such as soda; lemon, grapefruit and orange juice; green and black tea; and revealed three steps to rehabilitate teeth that suffer from dental erosion as a result of the excessive consumption of these products.
Dr. Bassiouny instructs those who are experiencing tooth erosion to first, identify the culprit source of erosion, possibly with the help of a dental professional. Then, the individual should determine and understand how this source affects the teeth in order to implement measures to control and prevent further damage. Lastly, the person should stop or reduce consumption of the suspected food or beverage to the absolute minimum. He notes that information about the acid content of commonly consumed foods or beverages is usually available online or on the product's label. It is also recommended to seek professional dental advice in order to possibly restore the damaged tissues.
"Dental erosion," according to Dr. Bassiouny, "is a demineralization process that affects hard dental tissues (such as enamel and dentin)." This process causes tooth structure to wear away due to the effects that acid has on teeth, which eventually leads to their breakdown. It can be triggered by consumption of carbonated beverages or citric juices with a low potential of hydrogen (pH), which measures the acidity of a substance. Excessive consumption of the acidic beverages over a prolonged period of time may pose a risk factor for dental health.