Your teeth are designed to withstand wear and tear without issue as you chew, bite, and perform other oral functions. They feature a hard outer layer called enamel that protects them from potential dangers. But you will need to take care of your teeth in order to maintain strong and healthy tooth enamel and dental structure.
Though durable, teeth are not indestructible. And dental harm can lead to changes in the health, function, and appearance of your smile. Enamel can sustain damage in a number of ways, including dental erosion and tooth decay. Read on to learn the similarities and differences between these two types of structural dental damage.
How Does Tooth Enamel Erode?
Accidental dental injuries can hurt your teeth, but enamel can sustain more gradual structural harm as well. Many factors can contribute to this erosion of the tooth enamel, and though it can happen slowly, it will still leave you with an irreversible weakening of your teeth.
The sensitive interior of your teeth will be exposed to external threats, increasing your risk for other dental dangers. You might also feel tooth sensitivity without the protection of strong enamel. Some patients also notice discoloration where enamel has thinned and weakened which does not go away with your usual oral hygiene regimen.
One of the primary causes of dental erosion is the consumption of acidic foods and beverages. Citrus fruits and juices and sugary treats will leave their acid behind on your teeth, where they will eat away at your enamel. Similarly, if you leave plaque behind due to poor oral hygiene, the excess bacteria will also erode your teeth.
Habits like teeth grinding might also weaken the enamel, as will factors beyond your control like aging. While you can make at-home efforts to protect your enamel from erosion, you should consult your dentist for preventative dental care that suits your unique needs.
Enamel does not grow back, but a dentist can replace lost enamel with restorative dental solutions like dental crowns. The dentist might also recommend fluoride treatment to strengthen the remaining enamel and prevent its erosion.
How Does Tooth Decay Form?
Tooth decay is another type of structural dental damage that hurts your tooth enamel differently than dental erosion. While gradual erosion often occurs due to external acidic substances, decay stems from natural oral bacteria. Bacteria penetrate weak spots in the teeth, spurred by dental erosion in many cases, and eat away at the enamel to create holes called cavities.
To treat a cavity, a dentist must drill away the decay and fill the resulting hole with composite resin to restore the tooth’s structure. More advanced decay also requires drilling away the damage. But for more extensive coverage for the vulnerable tooth, a dentist may need to use a crown.
Decay differs from dental erosion, but erosion can put you at a greater risk for decay. As with preventative care for erosion, you can keep decay at bay with good oral hygiene habits. Symptoms of tooth decay can resemble dental erosion, including tooth pain and discoloration.