Treating Unnatural Tooth Wear Caused By Many Factors

Teeth do not wear naturally over time, many people experience an accelerated wearing of enamel and dentine. In most cases, the unnatural wear is caused by poor habits, many of which the person is completely unaware of. We treat the results of these habits, and offer advice on limiting or eliminating the adverse results they cause.

Unnatural Tooth Wear Caused by Tooling

“Tooling” is the act of using (abusing!) your teeth as a tool. You will eventually break, chip, wear or roughen your teeth if you use them as a tool.

Common examples of tooling include:

  • Trimming your fingernails or grooming your cuticles with your teeth
  • Opening cellophane bags, cereal bags or any bag with your teeth
  • Cutting plastic shopping tags with your teeth
  • Cutting loose threads from clothing or when sewing with your teeth
  • Cutting fishing lines with your teeth
  • Tearing duct or other tape with your teeth
  • Stripping plastic off of wire with your teeth

Solution: Use a scissors, nail clipper, cuticle groomer or knife—not your teeth! Remember, your teeth are jewels, not tools!

David A. Cook, DDS, PA
David A. Cook, DDS, PA

Tooling is a habit and is up to you to stop. If you want to see a fun video to help, visit Bob Newhart’s “Stop It” video on YouTube.

Tooth Brush Abuse—Gum Recession

David A. Cook, DDS, PA
David A. Cook, DDS, PA

If you scrub back and forth across your teeth, the bristles of your aggressive brushing may damage your gums, irritating them to recess and expose the sensitive root of your teeth. While scrubbing does not clean them very well, it does wear the gum away. A gentle press and wiggle is a better technique.

If your toothbrush bristles flair out to the sides, you are scrubbing with too much pressure or too much velocity. Either way, you will damage your gums and teeth.

Unnatural Tooth Wear from Toothpaste

David A. Cook, DDS, PA
The black circled areas show the worn teeth of toothpaste abuse and no gum recession.

Adding toothpaste to aggressive scrubbing and the paste will erode the tooth away, creating extra sensitive divots or grooves on your teeth. The paste contains grit or abrasive, which does the damage. Modern soft brushes alone will not cause wear to the tooth, even if you scrub aggressively; you need to add some grit (toothpaste) for wear to occur.

Typically, we see this wear along the sides of the teeth near the gum line and often in combination with gum recession.

We recommend that you use a gentle brushing technique with no more than a pea-size amount of toothpaste, and never reload by adding more paste.

Acid Contribution to Tooth Paste Abuse—Accelerated Loss of Tooth Structure

Adding acid to your mouth on a regular basis will pre-dissolve the surface enamel on your teeth. This makes it easier for your toothbrush and paste to scrub it away—a double whammy! This may leave the teeth temperature and touch sensitive. Acid-corroded teeth are also extremely susceptible to decay. Acid comes from many sources as discussed below.

Enamel is the hard white covering over the softer, dark-yellow dentin. When the enamel is “scrubbed away,” the teeth look more yellow, aged and damaged as the darker dentin becomes exposed. Even though you may be tempted to do so, scrubbing harder does not get the teeth whiter—it just exposes more dark, yellow/orange dentin. If you brush right after stomach acid or acidic foods have softened your teeth, the abusive scrubbing wear is worse. Wait an hour to brush or eliminate the acid assault to your teeth!

If you are scrubbing to try to whiten your teeth, try professional whitening products that will do the job and not wear your tooth away.

Unnatural Tooth Wear from Acid From Your Stomach: Gastric Reflux and Bulimia

Stomach acids can make their way into your mouth during sleep or when lying down. These acids rest on the surfaces of the teeth, slowly dissolving the tooth away. Tooth brushing, using a heavy hand and toothpaste as the grit, abrades teeth even faster.

Gastric Reflux Acids often accelerate wear on the back teeth more than the front. If you sleep on one side, that side may be affected more towards the cheek side of your back teeth.

Bulimia brings up the stomach acids and erodes the upper front teeth on the tongue side. As the tongue sides of the upper front teeth dissolves away, the edges chip, shorten, and often become a translucent blue from the thinning tooth loss. This tooth shortening is not aesthetic and can affect speech.

Sodas, Pops, Athletic Juices, Fruit Juices, Lemon Aid, Ice Tea, Wine, “Sour” Candies, Coffee… Are Just a Few Sources of Acid. “Sip all day, get decay!”

Contact Smiles at France at (612) 824-7033 to discuss your tooth wear concerns and learn more about treatment strategies. Conveniently located at 50th & France in Edina / Minneapolis. Free above and underground parking!