Similar and Destructive: Differentiating Tooth Decay from Tooth Erosion

Decaying TeethTooth decay and tooth erosion are two common oral problems that people are likely to encounter as their teeth age. Despite the similarities, these two dental terms are not interchangeable. Being able to differentiate between them can help individuals figure out which treatment is appropriate for their dental problem.

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay forms as a result of an accumulation of tartar and acidic plaque in the mouth. These substances are the waste products created by bacteria when they engulf food particles and sugary residues that stay between and on the teeth.

While plaque is easy to clear away, it builds up and hardens into tartar when not removed. Tartar, meanwhile, sits on the teeth and exposes them to acid, which eventually dissolves the tooth enamel. Widcombe Dental Practice, a trusted dental practice in Bath, says that poor oral health can lead to tooth decay especially in the long term.

Individuals looking to treat tooth decay should visit their dentist to determine out how advanced the problem is. Treatment options typically range from applying a fluoride gel (for early stage tooth decay) to tooth extraction (for advanced stage tooth decay).

Tooth Erosion

Tooth erosion occurs when tooth enamel, along with the dentin beneath the enamel, are worn down either through the exposure to abrasive agents and acidic substances or through wear and tear. Although the enamel serves as an effective shield against all damage, the modern food and beverages that people enjoy weaken the teeth's protective coating. Certain food and drinks contain acids that erode the enamel.

Under normal circumstances, the saliva in the mouth has enough chemicals to help teeth repair themselves. Eating or drinking a lot of harmful food, however, prevents tooth recovery. This makes the enamel thinner, and the teeth may become more sensitive to hot or cold temperatures.

While one cannot reverse tooth erosion, several treatments exist to help offset the damage. Using a remineralising gel containing phosphate and fluoride can help minor erosion issues caused by everyday wear and acid erosion on teeth. If the enamel loss is significant, however, the dentist may recommend covering the teeth with a crown.

Preventing Tooth Decay and Erosion

Proper dental care can prevent both decay and erosion. Brushing and flossing regularly, coupled with avoiding acidic food and drinks, can minimise the risk of decay or erosion, as well. Visiting the dentist regularly for oral examination and professional cleaning can also prevent these two dental problems.

While tooth decay and erosion have different causes, both can lead to serious long-term damage when left untreated. Taking good care of your oral health can prevent these problems from forming on your teeth. 

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