In the latest case of “too much of a good thing,” can you imagine a time when your dentist might tell you to stop brushing your teeth? Although this will probably never happen, if your teeth are showing signs of tooth abrasion, they may ask you to lighten up just a little. Keep reading to find out just what tooth abrasion is and how you can prevent it (or stop it from progressing).

What causes tooth abrasion?

Tooth abrasion is one of several types of dental conditions that can cause teeth to wear away faster than normal. Tooth abrasion occurs as a result of outside forces acting on the teeth, most commonly vigorous and aggressive tooth brushing, often with a hard-bristled brush. This abrasion is also caused by overuse of toothpicks which can create ridges in the teeth.

There is also evidence that tooth abrasion may be a result of the kinds of toothpaste a patient uses (in combination with vigorous brushing). The increased use of abrasive toothpastes can be compared to using an abrasive cleanser to clean the sink. Just like the cleanser removes grime, the abrasive toothpaste can remove grime plus a little bit of enamel each time. Over time, this can cause excessive wear.

Finally, in the too-much-of-a-good thing department, brushing too often can cause tooth abrasion.

Other types of tooth wear

Other types of unnatural wearing of teeth include tooth erosion, tooth attrition, and abfraction.

Tooth erosion occurs when teeth are used for something other than biting and chewing. They are not meant to be used as bottle openers, nut crackers, tool holders, string cutters, or nail trimmers. These common uses of teeth cause far more wear-and-tear per occurrence than do natural uses like eating, yet people often discount the damage they are doing.

Tooth attrition is a type of wear that is caused by tooth-on-tooth contact. In addition to jaw pain and other symptoms, people who suffer from bruxism are familiar with this excessive wear.

Finally, abfraction is a less common type of wear that occurs on the tooth at the gum line. Excessive forces from bruxism are the primary cause.

It can be difficult to judge how much wear is too much. A good measure is if it causes cosmetic concerns or causes pain or discomfort. While some wear of the teeth is natural over time due to normal use, too much wear can lead to potentially serious dental issues.

Tooth abrasion symptoms

Unlike the symptoms for other types of excessive wear, tooth abrasion symptoms are most often present at the gum line. They may appear as a groove or a pocket in the tooth, and you may even be able to feel a groove in the tooth with your tongue as it progresses.

If left untreated, tooth abrasion can rapidly wear down the enamel of your teeth. Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, but it’s vulnerable over time. Once it’s gone, it cannot be replaced. Enamel protects the sensitive inner pulp of the tooth (the dentin), and when that is exposed you may begin to feel sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures.

If your vigorous tooth brushing is the primary cause, you may also begin to damage gum tissue. This can lead to vulnerability to infection and even abscess.

How to prevent tooth abrasion

Tooth abrasion prevention deals mostly with making changes to your oral hygiene practices.

First of all, don’t put down your toothbrush; change the kind you pick up. Most cases of tooth abrasion begin with a hard-bristled toothbrush. If that’s the case for you, pick up a soft-bristled brush before you do anything else. This alone can help prevent further tooth abrasion.

Once you have your soft-bristled toothbrush, ask your dentist for a proper toothbrushing tutorial. Turns out, there is a better way to brush your teeth. Less of a tooth scrubbing and more of a gentle tooth and gum massage, using the proper toothbrushing technique can go a long way towards limiting further tooth abrasion.

Using a special toothpaste with extra calcium (usually a whitening toothpaste, but ask your dentist) can help the remaining enamel become stronger. Remember to floss once a day and follow other oral hygiene practices as recommended by your dentist.

Finally, limiting sugary and acidic beverages and foods can prot