As defined by the American Dental Association dental erosion or tooth erosion is “A chemical process characterized by acid dissolution of dental hard tissue not involving acids of bacterial origin.” It can be progressive, is irreversible, and may be caused by factors that are related to lifestyle, such as diet, or induced by health issues, like stomach acid reflux or vomiting; respectively, the sources of acid erosion are considered to be external (extrinsic) and internal (intrinsic) in origin. All age groups, including children, can be affected by dental erosion and prevalence can be as high as 45% among children and as high as 80% in adults. A dentist may discover erosion-susceptible patients during the clinical examination, and a subsequent interview for relevant risk factors. Elimination of one or more risk factors may be involved in the identification of source and management of dental erosion. Teeth affected by erosion can appear chalky, pitted or discolored, and they also may have sharp edges and be sensitive to cold, hot, sugary and acidic dietary factors. Of these factors, carbonated drinks like sparkling water, sodas and sports drinks are primarily linked to extrinsic erosion due to their frequent consumption, but chewable vitamin C, natural fruit juices and acidic sweet snacks are also considered as agents of external erosion when consumed frequently. Included for consideration as a source of external factors, some workers face environmental and occupational risks for dental erosion from airborne industrial acids found in battery, munitions and fertilizer plants. It is also worth mentioning water from sources like chlorinated swimming pools has been implicated in external dental erosion too. Internal erosion, the other cause of dental erosion is, having stomach acid moving up from the esophagus and entering the mouth, and is generally known as GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. When it is frequent, GURD also causes injury to the esophagus, pharynx, or respiratory tract and may be experienced as a burning sensation in the chest and a sour or bitter taste in the mouth. It can cause coughing, difficulty swallowing, sore throat and hoarseness; it may also occur during pregnancy, bulimia, and chronic alcoholism. Please feel free to discuss any questions you may have with your dentist about the combination of heartburn or reflux, the most common characteristics that underlies dental erosion.
All the Best in Dentistry,
Bruce R. Clark, DDS, MAGD