Should I Be Worried about my Worn Teeth?

Tooth wear is the term used to describe the progressive loss of a tooth’s surface due to actions other than those which cause tooth decay or dental trauma. Some wear to teeth is a natural side effect of aging, with worn teeth becoming smaller and darker in color. This is mainly an aesthetic problem, unless it starts to affect your bite or contribute to a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) which can lead to headaches, earaches, neck or back pain. As we age, there is a natural and progressive breakdown that affects every part of our body, including our skin, bones, muscles, joints, internal organs and even our brains. Unfortunately, teeth are not immune to the effects of aging.

How Do Teeth Get Worn Down?

Tooth Wear is the loss of tooth surface, which is not caused by decay or by an injury. Tooth wear can typically categorize as pathologic or physiologic. As people age there is a certain amount of wear and tear that occurs and is considered normal. When teeth first come into the mouth, they are in pristine condition and come complete with mamelons, remnants of the tooth’s development. Over time, our teeth get worn down. Some people wear their teeth down more than others. Tooth wear is basically the result of four different and frequently combined processes:

· Abrasion: Wear produced by interaction between teeth and other materials

· Attrition: Wear through tooth-to-tooth contact

· Erosion: Dissolution by acidic substances

What Do Worn Teeth Look Like?

Wear of the teeth that is most visible is occlusal wear that affects the biting (enamel) surfaces. It occurs when enamel surfaces interact between the upper and lower teeth. More specifically, wear results in the removal of material from the enamel surfaces. Contact due to motion is an important distinction between mechanical wear and other processes that can have similar results, as we will cover later. And it is not only the teeth that can suffer, but other structures can also bear the brunt of excessive force within the oral system.

The Consequences of Wear Over Time

When your teeth are badly worn down, they don’t always come together properly. This misalignment in your bite can cause strain in your jaw, and this strain can radiate and lead to headaches. In many cases, those suffering from worn teeth can feel unattractive and can cause a lack confidence since worn teeth can give an aged facial appearance.

Solutions for Severely Worn Teeth

Once your dentist confirms that you are, in fact, suffering from excessive tooth wear, he or she will help you explore ways to address the main causes of this wear.

A Night Guard

If you grind your teeth and your dentist has given you a night guard for it, the old fashioned method of treating bruxism is to cover the teeth with a night guard to protect them from the strong vertical forces caused by grinding, which causes teeth to crack, break, and, over decades, slowly wear the teeth away to stubs.

Dental Crowns and Other Restorations

For every patient who presents with tooth wear, it’s important to know how to approach the planning process properly. Most of the time dentists are inclined to think about occlusion when starting to treatment plan wear patients, but the reality is that the reason the dentist doesn’t know what to do is not simply an occlusal issue, but rather a tooth position issue.

How to Prevent Worn Teeth

If you have lost a lot of teeth or surface of your teeth through wear and tear, we recommend you opt for a definitive and comprehensive approach to treatment, as opposed to just a ‘quick fix.’