Acid Wear (Dental Erosion)


A common dental problem with severe consequences

For many years dentists have blamed hard toothbrushes and grinding/clenching for worn teeth. A common factor that is left out is our diet. While most only focus on the sugar contents of food and drinks, the acidity of these foods can have just as much of an effect on our teeth.

The biggest difference between acid and sugar is that acid will erode away tooth structure on the surfaces that it touches while sugar is actually metabolised by bacteria into acid and then eat away at the tooth. As a result, areas of decay from bacteria is usually found in different locations on a tooth compared with acid erosion. Acid erosion only happens to the teeth and surfaces that are exposed to the acidic substance. This article will not discuss dental decay in detail as it is a complicated process and should not be confused with acid erosion

The most common cause of dental acid erosion is from acidic foods and drinks. Many of these types of foods/drinks are perceived as healthy and essential as part of nutritious diet which further increases their prevalence.

Common examples of acidic foods/drinks:

  • Citrus fruits/juices - oranges, lemons, limes, mandarins, grapefruits etc...
  • Carbonated soft drinks - anything that is fizzy e.g. Sparkling water, Cola, Sprite, Fanta etc...
  • Wine (any colour of wine)
  • Beer
  • Energy drinks - V, Redbull, Mother etc...
  • Spirits/hard liquor - Vodka, Tequila, Gin etc...

The list can go on, essentially anything that has a pH of less than 5 can wear down teeth.

Another important factor that is commonly ignored is digestive fluids from reflux and vomitting. These fluids are extremely acidic (used to break down food) and will erode teeth a lot quicker than other foods/drinks in the diet. It is easy to spot these issues dentally as the surfaces that are worn are often those on the back surfaces of teeth meaning the source is coming from within the digestive tract outwards rather than vice versa. It is best to see a medical professional to have these conditions managed in order to avoid chronic dental erosion.

Acid wear has serious dental consequences and it is usually not a stand alone issue as those with acid wear often grind their teeth thus wearing down teeth even faster. If detected early and managed correctly, the long term consequences can be minimised.

Common signs of acid erosion on teeth include:

  • Very shiny and smooth surfaces on teeth, often flat or cratered
  • Yellower teeth due to wearing down of the enamel layer
  • Short teeth with flat edges which progressively worsens as years go on
  • Sensitive teeth to cold stimulants

There are many ways of managing these issues from a dental point of view but the key is to reduce or stop the acid exposure. Once the acid levels are low, dental erosion will be minimised and treated teeth will have much better longevity. Another helpful accessory is having a nightguard for protection of teeth during grinding/clenching during sleep.

Common dental treatment for eroded teeth:

  • De-sensitisation/protective coating
  • Fillings to cover worn surfaces or fill up craters
  • Veneers/crowns for building up worn down teeth
  • Oral rehabilitation - building up of numerous teeth to regain teeth height and improve aesthetics

If dental erosion is a problem for you please feel free to contact us for more information and do not hold off on seeking advice as most severe cases could have been prevented years ago.