Tooth wear is a major potential problem for your teeth. As teeth get worn down, can expose the internal layers of the teeth, which are softer and at greater risk for decay and infection. In addition, it makes you look older. Worn teeth are associated with age, but they mean that your teeth don’t support your facial structure as well, which contributes to many signs of facial aging, such as wrinkles around the mouth, turkey neck, and sagging cheeks and jowls.
The good news is that tooth wear shouldn’t be a problem for most of us. Our teeth are relatively strong compared to the soft food that we eat. While previous generations saw significant tooth wear from all the grit imparted to flour from stone mills, modern people in the US enjoy mostly grit-free food.
So why do some people see significant wear on their teeth? There are several potential causes that can cause your teeth to wear down faster than you’d like. Here’s how to protect your teeth.
One of the biggest causes of tooth wear these days is bruxism–teeth clenching and grinding. And the main reason why people grind their teeth is that they are stressed. If you are stressed, you may clench your jaws during the day (or at night). You can press your teeth together and move them against each other, causing the teeth to wear each other down. Obviously, your teeth are just as hard as one another, so unlike food they are good at grinding your enamel.
If you can find ways to reduce stress in your life, you can potentially reduce the amount of bruxism and therefore the amount of tooth wear.
Another problem that can lead to tooth wear is crooked teeth. Your teeth should share the load of chewing evenly, with no tooth getting too much burden to bear, and, hopefully, none of them actually touching as you chew.
Unfortunately, if your teeth are crooked, some teeth might experience more force than they should, which can accelerate wear on them. It isn’t always the tooth sticking up that gets worn down. In fact, a tooth that’s sticking up is often one that’s outside the normal arch of biting and chewing–it isn’t experiencing much force at all–if any–when you bite and chew.
Orthodontics can help your teeth balance the load so that none of them get worn down too quickly.
Other times, the problem isn’t your teeth, but your bite. If your bite is misaligned, it can cause you to bite and chew unevenly, which will subject some of your teeth to more force than the other. This will accelerate wear on some of the teeth.
There are many different jaw problems, but we often group them under the umbrella term temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or, sometimes, TMD). If a jaw disorder is causing uneven tooth wear, we balance your bite forces, which might involve a bite splint at first, followed by restoring worn teeth to even the load.
Treat Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing stops while you sleep, forcing you to partially awaken to restore breathing. It is closely linked to TMJ, and it can also lead to significant tooth wear. That’s because one strategy the body uses to restore breathing is clenching the jaw. This can put the jaw in a more supportive position for the airway, but it can also damage your teeth. Treating sleep apnea can reduce jaw clenching as well as preventing tooth wear.
Brushing your teeth twice a day is good, so brushing it more times must be better, right? Not necessarily. Brushing can actually wear down your teeth if you do it too often. Brushing your teeth twice a day is sufficient for oral health, but if you want to brush your teeth more often, it’s a good idea to not use toothpaste. Toothpaste contains abrasives that help it clean your teeth, but it can also wear away your enamel (and your restorations) if you use it too much.
Also, remember not to brush too vigorously. Most of what you’re trying to remove from teeth is soft as yogurt, so a gentle pressure and complete coverage is all it takes to clean your teeth.
Your teeth are strong enough to take on all the foods you eat, but they do have one big weakness: acid. Acid attacks the strong tooth enamel. If you get a lot of acid exposure, such as from acid reflux or consuming many sodas and other acidic drinks, your teeth can actually be eroded away. But even a little acid exposure can weaken your teeth and make them vulnerable to wear. So try to reduce acid in your mouth. If you do enjoy acidic drinks and foods, follow them up with a cleansing drink of water to neutralize the acid. And wait a while before brushing your teeth after consuming acids.
If Your Teeth Are Already Worn
But what can you do if your teeth are already worn? Full mouth reconstruction can help by restoring your teeth to their youthful proportions, with restorations like dental crowns. This can give you an attractive, balanced, healthy, and youthful-looking smile again.