Is tooth erosion or attrition part of the normal aging process? Yes and NO!
Tooth erosion is not from normal aging, tooth attrition is. See below for definitions.
Is it natural for our teeth to wear down and become shorter as we age? Yes, your teeth will wear from chewing food, but not very much! Normal chewing should only cause you to lose about 1 mm of tooth length over a lifetime of 100 years! The type of food eaten will make a difference in the amount of wear as well. Ages ago when people ground grains between stones to make their breads and other foods, some bits of stone would be in the resulting flour or meal and eating foods prepared with this would, over years of time, cause excessive wear of tooth structure.
The more severe wear we are talking about in this blog is preventable tooth wear from tooth erosion. Think of the ways that people use their teeth as tools (trimming nails, breaking string, cracking nuts, holding tools) and you can imagine that this causes way more wear than any type of natural chewing. Sometimes, even your occupation will make your teeth more likely to undergo heavy wear. If you work in an area of heavy dust and grit this gritty film will often be present on your teeth and if this is combined with any type of clenching and grinding, the wear can be severe over a short time.
Why do some people’s teeth look old and worn while they are still young? This is most likely due to tooth or dental erosion or attrition.
Tooth Erosion results in the loss of tooth structure due to softening of the tooth surface from an acidic diet. the softened tooth wears away more easily during chewing and is especially prone to more severe wear if you clench or grind your teeth. Tooth attrition is a type of irreversible wear caused by the contact of the upper and lower teeth resulting in loss of tooth structure. This type of wear starts in the areas where the teeth contact during normal chewing. Tooth wear is a physiological process and is commonly seen as a normal part of aging.
Our friends at Wikipedia note that, “Advanced and excessive wear and tooth surface loss can be defined as pathological in nature, requiring intervention by a dental practitioner. The pathological wear of the tooth surface can be caused by bruxism, which is clenching and grinding of the teeth. If the attrition is severe, the enamel can be completely worn away leaving underlying dentin exposed, resulting in an increased risk of dental caries and dentin hypersensitivity. It is best to identify pathological attrition at an early stage to prevent unnecessary loss of tooth structure as enamel does not regenerate.”
Our office would be happy to answer your questions about tooth erosion. We will let you know your options!
Yours for better dental health,
Julie Gillis DDS
Restoring Smiles/Restoring Health