Are you noticing increased tooth sensitivity, translucency, or yellowing of your teeth?
These could be symptoms of worn-down teeth. The gradual loss of tooth enamel can lead to various dental problems, impacting not just your oral health but also your smile’s aesthetics. Understanding worn teeth and their causes is the first step towards preserving your teeth and preventing problems such as damaged or missing teeth.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the world of worn teeth, exploring the symptoms to watch out for and the factors contributing to their wear and tear. Whether it’s the natural effects of ageing, certain lifestyle choices, or habits like teeth grinding, early detection and timely action are essential to safeguard your teeth and preserve their structure. Read on to find out more about worn teeth and the restorative dental options you can utilise to help protect them.
What does Wearing of the Teeth mean?
Worn teeth refer to the loss of tooth structure due to various factors, resulting in a reduction of tooth height, or changes in tooth shape or surface texture. This wear can occur on the biting surfaces or the sides of the teeth.
There are three main types of tooth wear:
Attrition: This type of wear occurs due to tooth-to-tooth contact. It can be a natural process that happens with age as teeth come into contact during chewing. Bruxism or teeth grinding can accelerate attrition.
Erosion: Erosion is the loss of tooth structure caused by chemical processes, such as acid exposure. Acidic foods and beverages, frequent vomiting (as in eating disorders or acid reflux), or excessive consumption of citrus fruits can lead to enamel erosion.
Abrasion: This type of wear is caused by external factors, such as aggressive tooth brushing, using abrasive toothpaste, or habits like biting on pens or nails.
Causes of Worn Teeth
Age – Tooth wear is a natural part of the ageing process. Over time, daily chewing, biting, and exposure to various substances take a toll on the tooth structure.
Teeth grinding – Bruxism or teeth clenching can put excessive and abnormal forces on the teeth, accelerating wear.
Diet – Consuming acidic foods and beverages regularly can erode the enamel over time.
Poor oral hygiene – Aggressive tooth brushing or using abrasive toothpaste can contribute to tooth abrasion.
Acid reflux – Frequent acid reflux can introduce stomach acid into the mouth, causing tooth enamel erosion.
Malocclusion – Misaligned teeth or an improper bite can create uneven forces on the teeth, leading to localised wear. Orthodontic treatments, such as braces or clear aligners, can help treat misaligned teeth for a straighter smile and improved oral health.
Medical conditions – Conditions that cause dry mouth (xerostomia) or eating disorders can contribute to tooth wear.
Symptoms of Worn Down Teeth
The symptoms of worn teeth can vary, and you may not even be aware of the problem until it progresses. Recognising the signs of worn teeth or noticing a change in your teeth or oral health can help dentists detect such problems early, preventing further damage with timely treatment and preventive measures.
Here are common symptoms and signs of worn teeth:
Worn teeth can lead to increased tooth sensitivity, especially to hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods and beverages. This sensitivity occurs because the protective enamel layer is gradually worn away, exposing the more sensitive dentin underneath.
Flattened or Shortened Teeth
In cases of attrition or bruxism (teeth grinding and clenching), the constant friction between the teeth can lead to their gradual flattening or shortening. This can alter the natural shape of the teeth and affect their functionality.
Shiny or Transparent Appearance
As enamel thins due to wear, the tooth surface may become glossy or transparent, particularly along the edges of the teeth. This change in appearance happens due to the enamel losing its characteristic opacity.
Notches or Grooves Near the Gumline
Tooth Abrasions can cause V-shaped notches or grooves to develop near the gumline of affected teeth. These notches are vulnerable areas where further wear and sensitivity can occur.
Changes in Tooth Color
Worn teeth may appear more yellow or discoloured as the enamel wears away, revealing the naturally yellowish dentin beneath. Discolouration can be more noticeable on the edges and biting surfaces of the teeth.
Tooth Chipping or Fractures
Severe tooth wear can weaken the tooth structure, making the teeth more susceptible to chipping or fractures, especially when exposed to additional forces, such as biting on hard objects.
Pain or Discomfort
People with worn teeth may experience jaw pain, headaches, or facial discomfort due to the stress placed on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and surrounding muscles.
It’s important to note that some of these symptoms can also be associated with other dental issues. Therefore, a thorough dental examination is vital to accurately diagnose worn teeth and determine the appropriate restorative options. Regular dental check-ups can help detect tooth wear early and prevent further damage to the teeth and surrounding structures. If you suspect you may have worn teeth or experienced any of these symptoms, it’s best to consult your dentist to identify the underlying cause.
Treatment options for worn down teeth
Treatment for worn down teeth usually depends on the extent of wear and tear on your teeth and the underlying cause. Here are some of the restorative treatment options for worn teeth:
Dental crowns are tooth coloured caps that cover the weakened teeth, protecting them from further damage and helping restore form and function. They cover the entire visible portion of the tooth and are custom-made to match your teeth shape, size, and colour for a natural appearance. Dental crowns are also used after a root canal treatment to cover the treated tooth or with dental implants as prosthetic attachments.
Dental veneers are thin shells made of porcelain or composite resin. They are bonded to the front surface of the teeth and can help correct discolouration, chips, cracks, or slight misalignments. Dental veneers can help restore chipped, cracked, or worn edges and also be used to close small gaps between teeth.
Inlays and Onlays
Inlays and onlays are indirect restorations that are used when tooth wear is too extensive for dental bonding but not severe enough for a full crown. Inlays are used to restore the inner part of the tooth within the cusps, while onlays extend to cover one or more cusps of the tooth. They are custom-made for your teeth and bonded to the prepared tooth surface. Inlays and onlays provide a conservative and durable solution, preserving more of the natural tooth structure compared to dental crowns.
Dental implants are a lasting and fixed solution for replacing severely worn or missing teeth. They consist of a titanium implant placed into the jawbone, acting as a root replacement. After the implant integrates with the bone, a dental crown is attached to the implant, restoring the missing tooth’s appearance and function. Implants not only provide a stable foundation for the restoration but also help prevent bone loss in the jaw, maintaining facial structure and supporting neighbouring teeth.
Tips to Prevent Worn Teeth
While natural wear and tear of teeth is unavoidable, there are preventive measures you can take to ensure your tooth enamel stays strong and well preserved.
Here are some tips to protect your teeth from wear and tear:
Practise Good Oral Hygiene
Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush will protect your teeth and gums from abrasion and preserve the enamel. Floss once a day or use interdental brushes to clean between the teeth and prevent plaque buildup, infections, and gum disease. Talk to your dentist about fluoride treatments as they help protect tooth enamel and keep teeth whiter.
At our Fremantle Clinic, we offer personalised hygiene plans and instructions, helping you choose the right dental tools and products to maintain your oral health. Our gentle hygienist also provides oral hygiene instructions on using the correct brushing techniques and bespoke guidance according to your age, lifestyle, and dental requirements. We provide the latest in hygiene treatments with the innovative Airflow Therapy for a whole mouth clean gently and with minimal contact, putting less stress on your teeth and a more thorough deep clean.
Avoid Acidic Foods and Beverages
Limit your consumption of acidic foods and drinks, such as citrus fruits, sodas, and sports drinks. If you do consume acidic items, rinse your mouth with water afterwards to help neutralise the acid.
Wear a Mouthguard
If you grind your teeth or play contact sports, invest in a custom-made mouthguard to protect your teeth and soft mouth tissues from wear and injury. At Superior Smiles, we offer occlusal splints to help treat bruxism for a restful sleep and custom-fitted sports mouthguards to protect your teeth from injury or trauma.
Don’t Use Teeth as Tools
Avoid using your teeth to open packages, bite nails, or perform other non-functional tasks. Using teeth as tools can cause chipping, cracking, or other forms of tooth wear.
Drinking plenty of water helps maintain saliva flow, which aids in neutralising acids and washing away food particles that can contribute to tooth wear.
Regular Dental Check-Ups
Schedule regular dental check-ups and cleanings to remove plaque and tartar buildup and promote healthy teeth and gums. Dentists can identify early signs of tooth wear or other potential oral issues, such as the onset of tooth decay or an impacted wisdom tooth. This allows them to recommend timely treatment, preventing further damage and the need for extensive dental procedures.
Maintain a Balanced Diet
Eating a balanced diet that includes foods rich in essential nutrients, such as calcium and phosphorus, helps support strong tooth enamel.
Maintain a Healthy Smile for Life
At Superior Smiles, we take a holistic approach to dental care, considering your physical, emotional, and dental health for a complete treatment. We believe prevention is key to maintaining your teeth and gums for a healthy smile that lasts a lifetime. If you’re struggling with worn teeth, bruxism, gum health or any other dental problem, we’re here with gentle support and tailored treatment plans to help you move towards optimal oral health. Book a consultation with our friendly dentists to learn more about our dental services.