Dental Erosion Explained

Guest blog post by by Theresa Collins a certified dentist from East Valley Dental Professionals

Dental erosion is when dental hard tissue is lost from factors other than bacteria. Such erosion usually stems from the presence of acids, as well as from pressure, corrosion, and friction. Factors leading to corrosion may be intrinsic, such as acid reflux, or extrinsic, such as from diet. Saliva acts to naturally neutralize acids that may cause erosion. A recent European study found that roughly 34% of children showed signs of erosion and approximately 28% of those between 18 and 30 years of age.  These findings show the importance of increasing awareness regarding erosion-related dental problems early in life to protect tooth enamel that is unreplaceable.

Understanding Tooth Enamel

The tooth is covered with a thin layer of enamel, which is among the strongest tissues in the body. The crown of the tooth is the portion visible outside of the gums. Light is able to pass through enamel. Dentin is what gives the tooth its color and may be a shade of white, yellow, or grey. Exposure to things such as cigarettes, coffee, red wine, colas, juices and tea may cause staining of the dentin.

Causes of Erosion

Acid Reflux

Stomach acid that enters the mouth region can create opportunities for erosion. These gastric fluids may overwhelm the mouth’s saliva. Gastroesophageal reflux disorder is (GERD) typically occurs when acids are regurgitated after eating. These acids can be particularly damaging when sleeping, often submerging the lower molars depending on sleep positioning. Pressures on the abdominal region such as from pregnancy or obesity are also a trigger.


Bulimia nervosa is a disorder where the individual intentionally vomits in efforts to reduce and maintain weight. It is most common in women and is prevalent among roughly 5% of those between the ages of 18 and 35.  Those with bulimia have a 90% chance of experiencing tooth erosion. It is common for dentists to detect such erosion among patients.


In Western countries, alcoholism affects roughly 10% of the population. Significant alcohol intake may result in harmful vomiting and more frequent acid regurgitation.  The erosion can be furthered by consuming beverages with high levels of acidity. Erosion caused by alcoholism is most common in the anterior maxillary teeth (front-upper), as is generally the case among those with bulimia as well.

Foods & Beverages

Beverages with a low pH level are most likely to create erosion. Low levels such as those between 2.0 and 3.5 are seen in many fruit juices and sodas.  In a 2016 report there were 379 beverages studied and over 90% had pH levels of less than 4.0. Other research shows that carbonated soft drinks are among the most harmful as well as chewable vitamin C tablets. Those who consume a diet that is high in sugar and starch are among those most likely to experience erosion. There is also a condition known as xerostomia that results in chronic dry mouth that leads to erosion due to the absence of saliva.

Grinding / Clenching

Grinding of the teeth, known as attrition, is naturally occurring friction that happens to some extent in most people. Bruxism is tooth grinding that happens unknowingly during sleep. Often grinding is the result of excessive stress, brushing teeth to hard, biting on objects and chewing tobacco. In severe cases, a tooth may be fractured or cracked.


There are a host of measures that can be taken to prevent tooth erosion including:

  • Limit acidic food and beverages to during meal times

  • Use a straw when consuming beverages that may spur erosion to avoid contact with teeth

  • Consuming cheese or milk products at the end of a meal can assist in reducing the purity of acids

  • Choose sugar-free chewing gum products; chewing gum also helps to generate the flow of saliva

  • Brush your teeth several times per day using a brush with soft or medium bristles and fluoride toothpaste

  • Have fluoride treatments during dental visits

  • Seek to reduce overall levels of stress and anxiety to prevent grinding


As with all oral health concerns, regularly visiting the dentist is critical so that problems are identified before progressing to greater stages of severity. Eroding teeth may be filled with bonding for repair. When the erosion is more severe it may be necessary to apply a veneer. There are currently ultrathin types of veneer available, as well of those that are composite resins and porcelain. Those experiencing low rates of saliva may need to visit their physician for treatment options.

Maricopa County Dental Care

Has it been a year (or several) since your last visit to the dentist? Regular cleanings and examinations are critical in diagnosing dental health concerns such as erosion that may become severe and much more costly to treat. Those in the greater Mesa, Arizona region are encouraged to contact the office of East Valley Dental Professionals today at (480) 890-2811.