Toothwear – what is it, why do I have it and how can I fix it?


What is it?

Toothwear is a common problem and is often caused by a combination of our acidic diets, stressful lifestyles and resultant grinding and clenching habits, as well as using our teeth for things such as fingernail biting or over enthusiastic toothbrushing!



toothwear - erosion

Toothwear caused by acids as above can cause thinning or translucency of front teeth and subsequent chipping and unevenness. For back teeth, it can create ‘cupping’ defects on the biting surface and cause fillings to stand proud of the tooth cavity.

Common acidic food and drinks:

  • Wine, beer, cider
  • Fizzy drinks including fizzy water and sugar free drinks.
  • Fruit juices
  • Fruit
  • Pickled foods

In addition, patients with heart burn/reflux which may be silent can cause erosive damage to the teeth. Certain medications and medical conditions that cause vomiting may also cause damage without you knowing.



Toothwear - Attrition

Toothwear caused by grinding and clenching typically results in flattened incisal edges and flattening of the biting surfaces at the back. It also puts the teeth at greater risk of fracture, particularly where fillings are present.



Toothwear - Abrasion

Toothwear from habits such as fingernail biting, pen lid chewing or overzealous toothbrushing can present in different ways such as localised defined defects where the repeated action has taken place.


What problems can it cause?

If left untreated, tooth wear can lead to the chipping or breaking of teeth and deteriorating appearance of the teeth due to development of uneven, thin, or chipped edges. Pain and sensitivity can also develop meaning further treatment such as fillings, root canal treatment or extraction are needed.

If teeth fracture due to the excessive biting forces, this could make the tooth difficult to fix or even result in premature loss of the tooth.


How can I fix it?

The most important thing is to identify and manage the causative factor. For example, a diet high in acidic drinks needs to be addressed to bring consumption down to sensible levels. Once this is controlled, and your oral health is stable, we can plan to fix the tooth wear.

Potential solutions to this can include restoring the tooth shape by building them up with tooth-coloured fillings. Alternatively, dental laboratory made restorations such as caps/crowns to restore appearance, strength and function can be used and prolong the life of the teeth.

Alternatively, your dentist may simply monitor the condition with photos or scans of the teeth and provide preventative advice or bite guards to protect the teeth and slow progression of the wear.

Toothwear - how to fix it?


What Should I Do Now?

If you’re concerned that you may have or be developing one or more of the problems explained above, it may be worth you booking in to see your dentist for an opinion. They may advise that the condition is simply monitored and provide preventative advice to help delay worsening or they may advise taking steps to the restore lost tooth substance as discussed above.


Feel free to share this page if you or any of your friends or family might be interested in the above topic.

Tom Dobson

General Dental Practitioner with special interest in Restorative Dentistry

Enhance Dental, Garforth, Leeds.