Most people understand the causes and symptoms of tooth decay, but the phenomenon of tooth erosion is less familiar. In dentistry, these terms are not interchangeable, and reflect different processes that cause long-term damage to the teeth.
What’s Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay occurs as a result of a buildup of acidic plaque and tartar in the mouth. These substances are the waste products produced by bacteria when they devour sugary residues and food particles that remain on and between the teeth. Plaque is a whitish, sticky residue that is fairly easy to remove, but if it isn’t cleared away, it will accumulate and harden into tartar, which is more difficult to deal with and must be removed by your dentist with special tools. Tartar, in its turn, sits on the teeth, exposing them to acid that eventually eats through the tooth enamel. This is known as dental caries or tooth decay.
What’s tooth erosion?
Tooth erosion is a different process in which the tooth enamel and eventually the dentin beneath the enamel are worn down either through wear and tear or through exposure to acidic substances or other abrasive agents. Examples of tooth erosion include:
- Wearing down of the tooth surfaces due to misalignment
- Teeth becoming worn due to clenching and grinding
- Erosion of the enamel due to excessive exposure to acidic foods and beverages
- Erosion that occurs because of naturally weak enamel
Preventing tooth decay & erosion
Both decay and erosion of the teeth are preventable with proper dental care. Consistent preventive dentistry, both at home care and regular visits to the dentist, can help reduce the occurrence of both. Your at-home care is your first and best line of defense, so remember to brush and floss regularly and to avoid foods and behaviors that could lead to erosion or decay. If you see signs of wear, such as chipped edges of your teeth or reduced points on your molars, see your dentist to determine whether this damage is the result of clenching and grinding that could be prevented with proper treatment.
Consult with our experienced dental team by calling 214-821-8639 today.