It may seem logical that the harder you brush your teeth, the cleaner they'll be. But applying too much pressure can actually weaken the outer layers of the tooth structure. This condition, called dental abrasion, can occur when any foreign object causes friction against your teeth and gradually wears away the enamel on the surface.
If you've noticed the signs of dental abrasion, small v-shaped notches near the gums, it may be time to review your oral hygiene regimen with your dentist or dental hygienist. Don't worry, you won't need to retire your toothbrush altogether.
Your dentist or dental hygienist can suggest proper techniques to restore and protect a healthy smile.
Cause and Effect
Strenuous brushing is the most common culprit, but any object that repeatedly rubs against your teeth can wear them down. Using toothpicks improperly can contribute to dental abrasion, as well chewing on fingernails, pencils or other objects.
In some cases, ill-fitting retainers or partial dentures can also be to blame. Believe it or not, the type of toothpaste you use may even be a factor as some formulas are more abrasive than others.
While protecting the appearance of your teeth may be the most obvious reason to prevent and treat dental abrasion, weakened enamel can also contribute to more serious dental problems over time. Many patients experience increased tooth sensitivity to heat and cold. In addition, without its protective outer layer, a tooth may be more susceptible to infection. In advanced cases, when dental abrasion is left undiagnosed and/or untreated, a tooth may need a tooth filling or tooth extraction.
Dental Abrasion Treatment: What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Do
While there are multiple ways to treat dental abrasion, it's always better to prevent dental issues before they start. You can start your dental treatment by following a few simple guidelines:
- Always use a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Ask your dentist for tips on how to brush properly, and avoid brushing too hard.
- Refrain from chewing on toothpicks and pencils or biting your nails.
- Make sure removable dental appliances fit properly and have them checked on a regular basis.
- Don't forget to schedule regular dental visits to give your dentist a chance to detect any problems early on.
If any portion of your tooth surface has begun to wear away, your dentist may be able to correct the problem with fluoride treatment. Depending on your needs, he or she may also use dental bonding or dental fillings to replace the lost tooth structure. Also be sure to ask your dentist about air abrasion, which is the newest method of cleaning out tooth decay -- while also relieving dental anxiety.
The most important step you can take in abrasion treatment and prevention is to see a dental professional on a regular basis and ask questions about your hygiene regimen.