I am a grandmother of three lovely grandsons, and I have teeth that are worn down. I went to the dentist, and he says it is the reason I am experiencing pain when I bite on something. Are my teeth worn down because I am old?
Yes. When we age, there is a natural breakdown of a lot of our body parts, including our bones, skin, joints and organs. Some people say even our brains will go!
That goes for our teeth as well. After age 30, we begin to have a bit of wear on our teeth.
It is estimated we lose 1mm of length in our upper front teeth due to normal wear and tear for each decade of our life after 30!
This means that when you are 40, you have lost 2mm. When you are 50, another 2mm has gone!
As you learned in school, your teeth consists of an outer enamel layer, a living inner dentin layer and the roots.
Healthy teeth will be covered by a layer of enamel one-eighth of an inch (3.18mm) thick.
Okay, I have never measured my teeth, so I’m not sure how many millimetres have gone.
Well, unfortunately, for a lot of us older people, the wearing down of our teeth occurs well before the age they are supposed to break down!
For example, a 40-year-old might have 3mm gone instead of 2mm.
Enamel is the hardest substance in our entire body. Yes, harder even than bone! That’s why it is used to crunch food, including hard ones.
If your enamel is worn through in parts, your dentin is exposed. Because the dentin is living, with nerve fibres, you will feel pain and cold in your teeth.
Dentin wears down eight times faster than enamel.
Sometimes, teeth is worn down slowly over many years. But other times, teeth is worn down quickly over a short period of time.
Why does teeth wear down before its time?
Some causes of worn down teeth before your time are:
• Teeth grinding: We addressed this a fortnight ago.
• Abrasion: Caused by external forces on your teeth.
• Erosion: Chemical or acidic destruction of your teeth.
Some people even have a combination of all three of these reasons.
What are the external forces that cause teeth abrasion? Does it include being punched in the mouth by someone?
If someone punches you in the mouth, you may be likely to lose an entire tooth or several teeth!
No, the main cause of external abrasion is brushing your teeth with a hard toothbrush or over-brushing your teeth.
You only need to brush your teeth twice a day: once in the morning and once in the evening.
I have seen many people in the office brush their teeth after lunch to get rid of food being trapped in between.
You don’t need to brush your teeth after lunch, but you can get rid of the trapped food by flossing instead.
There are also certain foods that you eat, which can be extremely abrasive, e.g. ice. Many people like to chew ice, but it can actually wear down your teeth.
Oh, I didn’t know that! What about soft drinks? I heard they can be acidic and destroy our teeth.
Yes, the largest cause of acidic destruction of our teeth is carbonated drinks, also known as soft drinks or soda.
Those of you who consume canned carbonated drinks are the worst victims. Acid damages the surface of enamel, especially the front teeth.
A dentist will be able to recognise the cause of your worn down teeth by the patterns of destruction.
Even consuming orange juice and coffee have their disadvantages, as orange and coffee are also acidic.
Then there is acid reflux (where your stomach acids flow back up your oesophagus). If you have this condition and it is severe, your stomach acids can also come up into your mouth and destroy your teeth.
Okay, I admit my teeth are worn down. What can I do?
You need to visit an experienced dentist who can diagnose the reason why your teeth are worn down and advise you on how to tackle the cause.
For example: stop drinking carbonated drinks and/or brushing your teeth only with very soft toothbrushes and flossing regularly!
Once enamel is worn down, it can never come back, unfortunately. But great strides have been made in cosmetic dentistry.
For example, there is dental bonding to lengthen your teeth. This uses a material called composite resin that builds up the damaged part of your teeth.
Then there are porcelain veneers or lightweight shells that are placed on top of your teeth and permanently bonded to them.
For extremely damaged teeth, the dentist may suggest a crown. A crown covers the entire tooth.
You may also need to undergo fluoride treatments or use a fluoride rinse to harden your existing enamel to prevent further wear and tear.