A common problem with adults as they age is that their teeth start to wear down. In fact, more than half of the adults that we see in our downtown Toronto dental practice have this issue. It’s something that is normal in the aging process, so don’t worry. But there are some caveats. What is normal for tooth wear versus not normal is the key. Just like your bones are prone to feel more worn down as you age, so do your teeth. What concerns us as Toronto downtown dentists, however, is that we see patients who are coming in that are unaware of the extent of how worn down their teeth really are.
What is a normal amount of wear for your teeth?
Teeth are not immune to the effects of aging, as we said. In your 30s and beyond, we consider the loss of about one millimeter of length of the upper front teeth per decade to be normal. So when you’re in your 40s, it would be normal to have a one-millimeter loss on your front teeth compared to your 30s. However, this only applies if you don’t have a tooth wear problem that is caused by something else besides typical aging.
Tooth wear can also happen quickly over a short period of time. This is why if you suspect a problem, you should consult a dentist in downtown Toronto as quickly as possible. We always make sure to recognize the wear and tear that is happening with your teeth and let you know what’s going on. Other problems with tooth wear occur more gradually.
What are some of the major causes of tooth wear?
For our patients at our Toronto dentistry, we’ve seen three major causes of tooth wear:
- Teeth erosion (degeneration of teeth caused by acids, sugars, etc.)
- Teeth abrasion (external, such as using your toothbrush with excessive force)
- Teeth attrition (upper and lower teeth rubbing against each other, such as grinding)
Keep in mind that your teeth may be wearing down due to more than one of these causes. But let’s look into each one separately even though these causes can also work together.
Tooth attrition – When the upper and lower teeth rub up against each other
We’re shocked to see how many Torontonians come into our dentistry that admit to grinding their teeth. According to the Canadian Sleep Society, 8% of adults and 14% of children report grinding their teeth at least at night. Daily grinding of the teeth can seriously cause the loss in tooth structure. It’s pretty serious. Tooth attrition can also be caused by the use of MDMA (ecstasy).
To know if you have tooth attrition, look out for sharp and jagged edges on your front teeth. Also look out for flattened surfaces on your back teeth. If you have fillings, they may be worn down as well due to attrition.
Tooth attrition can also cause your teeth’s enamel to wear off, which can then lead to tooth decay. Think of your enamel as your teeth’s protective armor. As some of our downtown Toronto dental patients discover, enamel can’t grow back so the name of the game is to stave off any further degradation. This should be concerning to you because your dentin is then exposed. When your dentin is exposed, that makes your nerve endings vulnerable. Once the dentin is exposed, tooth wear and tear happens up to eight times as quickly. And that’s just one of many problems that can pop up due to exposed dentin. Also, be prepared for a lot more pain and sensitivity. You may also need to get a root canal if your tooth decays too much.
If you catch your attrition early, we would likely give you a night guard as long as the wear is light. If the wear and tear are heavy, we may need to restore your teeth back to their original height.
Tooth abrasion – What external forces are wearing down your teeth?
One of the most common external causes of tooth abrasion is how you brush your teeth. If you’re brushing your teeth too hard or are using a rough toothpaste, it is going to cause abrasion over time. Look out for notched out areas along your gum line, at the junction of the crown and root of your teeth. Also if you use your teeth as a tool for opening up bottles, stop doing that. Treat your teeth as you would treat a work of art!
You can reduce your abrasion by taking on a better brushing technique. Be gentle. Be thorough, but soft. Don’t hold your toothbrush using a pen-grip or vigorously scrub your teeth horizontally. Toothpaste varies in their level of abrasiveness. Be careful of toothpaste that promises to remove stains but don’t contain fluoride, as they may also cause abrasion. Look for a less abrasive fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride toothpaste in general are good for wear because they form a calcium fluoride layer on your teeth.
Tooth erosion – Be wary of the acids that you expose your teeth to
If your tooth structure is wearing away, it may be caused by acids. Erosion the least recognizable form of tooth wear, so make sure you are getting yourself checked. There are two kinds of acids that your teeth can be exposed to. Those that we ingest, and those that we regurgitate. To our patients in Toronto, we urge them to moderate their intake of carbonated beverages and soda. Soda is highly acidic and it can destroy enamel in a short period of time. But it’s not just soda. Make sure that you check the acidity of everything you ingest. That means coffee and even seltzer.
For regurgitated acid, bulimia and gastric reflux sufferers are typically most prone to tooth erosion. Bulimia produces acid that always causes extreme wear of the back surfaces of the upper front teeth. For gastric reflux sufferers, the erosion tends to appear on the biting surfaces of the back teeth and at the back of the front teeth. When sleeping the acid can gather on one side of the mouth depending on your position. The acid is brought up while the person is sleeping and will pool on one side of the mouth. This can cause the lopsided erosion of your teeth. If you see that one side of your teeth looks more eroded than the other, that’s why.
So how can you see if your teeth are worn down from acid erosion? Observe the texture of your teeth. If your teeth have a satin-like surface texture as opposed to the grittiness of abrasion, then that’s what you’re looking at. As downtown Toronto dentists, we treat eroded teeth by covering the exposed dentin first. Then we restore the teeth back to their previous size and shape so that they can’t be damaged further.
Observe your teeth – if your teeth are feeling worn down, do something about it
As we’ve gone through with the three types of tooth wear, this is a problem that should not be ignored. The key is understanding why your teeth are worn down. Come to our Toronto dentist office and we can work with you to figure out what’s going on. Once we recognize the problem and know what is directly causing your teeth to wear down, we can go from there. The earlier you detect the problem, the better.