What is Tooth Enamel Erosion, its Causes and Symptoms

21 June 2024

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Tooth enamel, the hard, outer layer that protects your teeth, is essential for maintaining oral health and a bright smile. However, various factors can lead to enamel erosion, a condition where this protective layer gradually wears away. This affects the appearance of your teeth and also compromises their strength and function. Understanding tooth enamel erosion is crucial for prevention and treatment.

In this article, we will explore the different types of tooth erosions, the symptoms to watch for, the stages of erosion, and the common causes behind this condition. We will also delve into the impact it can have on your overall dental health and discuss the available treatment methods to help manage and prevent further damage. Read on to learn more. 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be taken as medical advice. Please consult with your treating dentist for medical advice specific to your condition. Zenyum does not provide medical advice and our systems are doctor-directed treatments.

Causes of tooth erosion

Identifying and understanding the common causes of tooth erosion is crucial for prevention and maintaining oral health. Here are some of the more frequent culprits behind this condition:

1. Dietary acids

One of the most significant contributors to tooth erosion is the frequent consumption of acidic foods and beverages. Common dietary acids include:

  • Citrus fruits: Oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and their juices are high in citric acid
  • Carbonated drinks: These beverages contain phosphoric and citric acids
  • Sports drinks: Often high in acids to enhance flavour
  • Wine: Both red and white wines are acidic

2. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

GERD, a condition where stomach acid flows back into the oesophagus and mouth, exposes teeth to harsh acids that erode enamel. This backflow of stomach acid can be particularly damaging if it occurs frequently, leading to significant enamel loss over time.

Some causes of GERD include overeating, having caffeine and alcohol and being overweight.

3. Frequent vomiting

Conditions that cause frequent vomiting, such as bulimia or chronic alcoholism, expose teeth to stomach acid repeatedly. This constant exposure can severely erode enamel, possibly leading to increased sensitivity, decay, and other dental issues.

4. Medications

Some medications can contribute to tooth erosion by either reducing saliva production or directly introducing acids into the mouth. Notable examples include:

  • Aspirin: When chewed, aspirin can erode enamel due to its acidic nature
  • Antihistamines: These can reduce saliva flow, increasing the risk of erosion

5. Environmental factors

Exposure to acidic environments can also lead to enamel erosion. Examples include:

  • Chlorinated swimming pools: Improperly maintained pools with high chlorine levels can cause acidic water to erode enamel, especially in frequent swimmers
  • Industrial settings: Work environments with airborne acids can lead to erosion if proper protective measures are not taken

6. Acidic lifestyle habits

Certain lifestyle habits, often perceived as health trends, can contribute to tooth erosion if practised regularly. These include:

  • Drinking lemon water: Regular consumption of lemon water or other acidic drinks for health benefits can erode enamel.
  • Using apple cider vinegar: While popular for its supposed health benefits, frequent use of apple cider vinegar can lead to significant enamel loss due to its high acidity.

Symptoms and stages of tooth erosion

Tooth erosion progresses through various stages, each with distinct symptoms. Recognising these symptoms early can help in managing and preventing further damage.



Visual signs

Early stage

  • Mild sensitivity
  • Slight discoloration
  • Minor changes in texture

Enamel begins to wear down slightly, but damage is not yet severe

Progressive stage

  • Heightened sensitivity
  • More noticeable discoloration
  • Rougher edges

Enamel wear becomes more evident, with visible indentations or cupping on the tooth surface

Advanced stage

Significant sensitivity and pain, especially when consuming hot, cold, or acidic foods and drinks

Substantial enamel loss, with 

  • pronounced indentations,
  • transparency at the edges, and 
  • visible dentin exposure

Severe stage

  • Persistent pain
  • Extensive discoloration, 
  • Frequent cracking or chipping

Extensive enamel loss leading to 

  • tooth structure damage, 
  • potential tooth decay, and 
  • increased risk of cavities

How to prevent tooth erosion

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Preventing tooth erosion involves adopting practices that minimise acid exposure and strengthen enamel.

Here are some effective strategies:

  1. Drink through a straw: When drinking acidic beverages, use a straw to reduce contact with your teeth, minimising acid exposure
  2. Maintain good oral hygiene: Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to brush your teeth twice a day. Avoid brushing immediately after consuming acidic foods or drinks; wait at least 30 minutes or drink a glass of water before brushing to protect enamel
  3. Stay hydrated: This helps maintain saliva production, which neutralises acids and washes away food particles
  4. Use fluoride products: Fluoride strengthens enamel and makes it more resistant to acid attacks. Use fluoride toothpaste and consider a fluoride mouthwash for added protection
  5. Regular dental check-ups: Regular dental check-ups allow for early detection and management of enamel erosion. Your dentist can provide professional fluoride treatments and other preventive measures

Possible tooth erosion treatment options

Tooth erosion treatment focuses on preventing further enamel loss, managing symptoms like sensitivity, and restoring dental health.

Here are the main treatment options:

  1. Fluoride treatments: Professional fluoride applications strengthen enamel and make it more resistant to acid attacks
  2. Dental bonding: Composite resin bonding can repair minor enamel damage and improve tooth appearance
  3. Dental crowns or veneers: For more severe erosion, crowns or veneers can restore tooth structure and protect against further damage
  4. Desensitising agents: Specialised toothpaste or gels containing desensitising agents can alleviate sensitivity caused by enamel erosion
  5. Changes in oral hygiene habits: Dentists may recommend adjusting brushing techniques and using fluoride toothpaste to minimise enamel wear
  6. Dietary and lifestyle changes: Limiting acidic foods and drinks, using a straw for acidic beverages, and staying hydrated can reduce acid exposure
  7. Management of underlying conditions: Treating conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or addressing habits like teeth grinding (bruxism) that contribute to erosion
  8. Regular dental check-ups: Routine visits allow dentists to monitor enamel health, detect erosion early, and recommend appropriate treatments

Each treatment option is tailored to the severity and specific needs of the individual’s dental erosion, aiming to preserve enamel and maintain oral health effectively.

Managing and preventing tooth erosion

Enamel erosion happens to babies and adults alike globally due to various reasons and can be expressed in several different ways as well. A good thing to note is that taking preventative and thoughtful care of your teeth allows you to ensure your enamel continues to remain strong and healthy. Best of all, pairing your home care with a professional care is a balance to strike for.

FAQs on Tooth Erosion

What are the different types of wear in teeth?

Tooth wear includes 

  • erosion (chemical wear from acids), 
  • abrasion (physical wear from brushing or hard objects), 
  • attrition (tooth-to-tooth contact from grinding), and 
  • abfraction (stress-induced enamel and dentin loss). 

Recognising these types helps in identifying causes and implementing preventive measures for maintaining dental health

Dental erosion can occur at any age, though certain age groups may be more susceptible due to specific risk factors and lifestyle habits.

Tooth erosion affects dental health and one’s overall well-being. It can lead to increased tooth sensitivity, discoloration, and susceptibility to cavities. Severe erosion may cause changes in bite alignment and compromise chewing efficiency, affecting nutrition. Furthermore, eroded teeth can detract from facial aesthetics, impacting self-esteem and social interactions. 

Beyond oral health, ongoing erosion may contribute to systemic issues if bacteria from dental decay enter the bloodstream. Thus, addressing tooth erosion promptly with preventive measures and dental care is crucial for maintaining both oral health and overall quality of life.

Tooth erosion is the loss of enamel due to non-bacterial acids from diet or medical conditions, leading to smooth, sensitive, and discoloured teeth. 

Tooth decay, or cavities, is caused by bacterial acids from plaque, resulting in localised damage, holes, and potential pain. Both require different preventive measures.

To strengthen tooth enamel, 

  • brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, 
  • drink water to maintain saliva production, 
  • limit acidic foods and drinks, 
  • chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva, 
  • wear a mouthguard to prevent teeth grinding, 
  • consume calcium-rich foods, and 
  • visit your dentist regularly for fluoride treatments and check-ups.

Maintain good oral health

Smile More with Zenyum’s Smile Cosmetics – adopt good oral care habits with our range of products.

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