Dental Erosion


Ask children and adults to name a dental problem, and tooth decay would almost certainly be the top answer. Tooth decay or dental caries occurs "due to acid-causing bacteria in combination with carbohydrate-rich foods and insufficient health practices. It presents initially as isolated chalky white areas which spreads out to become wider and deeper cavities if not treated accordingly," warns Dr. Tess Oliveros-Villarico, who is the president of the Philippine Pediatric Dental Society (PPDSI).

She explains that in contrast, dental erosion initially involves a wider area of tooth surface and engages a more uniform presentation in the affected teeth. "It is an irreversible loss of tooth structure, which usually results from frequent exposure to the acidic content of food, drink, medications and gastric acid. Enamel, which is the white outermost layer of teeth, is primarily dissolved until the more yellow underlying dentin shows through. When this happens, teeth become more sensitive to hot or cold beverages and even sour food and drinks. If not managed immediately, the symptoms may subsequently lead to pain and infection."

The culprits

According to Oliveros-Villarico, the following fare can cause dental erosion:

1. sodas and other carbonated drinks

2. fruits and its juices

3. some vitamins

4. sour and vinegar-based Filipino favorites like adobo, sinigang, green mangoes and kalamansi

5. Additionally, situations which involve exposure of the teeth to gastric acids such as gastric reflux in early pregnancy and digestive disorders, plus eating dysfunctions like bulimia can contribute to dental erosion.

Good intentions and comforting habits are to blame too. "Many parents, in their intent to provide complete "baon" and snacks to their kids, would likely include orange and apple juices in their menus and the occasional sodas paired with the popular burger and fries. It is also likely that Vitamin C and other viscous, sticky supplements are prescribed on a daily basis by the well-meaning pediatrician. Even babies and toddlers who are still given pacifiers may not only find milk in the feeding bottle but also acid-rich colored drinks which remain in the mouth for a considerable amount of time thereby submerging the teeth in harmful fluid and altering the oral balance in a negative way. Adults who are fitness buffs may be regularly taking in sports and energy drinks; working personnel resort to coffees and teas for the usual perk-me-ups and a round or two of wine to go with lunch or dinner. With all these various acid-containing sources and their frequent consumption, it is not surprising that dental erosion is now considered a common chronic disease among children and can be a serious dental health problem also affecting a lot of adults," observes Oliveros-Villarico.

The signs

Someone suffering from dental erosion would have:

1. teeth that shows a dissolution of the hard tissue cover or enamel

2. teeth or parts of it that appear more yellow because of a more translucent enamel showing off the darker colored underlying dentin

3. sensitivity reactions to eating and drinking hot, cold, and/or sour food and drinks

4. discomfort during mealtimes and when brushing the teeth

"Children would usually lose appetite and reject food and toothbrushing altogether. …

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