It may seem logical that the harder you brush your teeth, the cleaner they’ll be. But applying too much pressure can actually weaken the outer layers of the tooth structure. This condition, called dental abrasion, can occur when any foreign object causes friction against your teeth and gradually wears away the enamel on the surface.
If you’ve noticed the signs of dental abrasion, small v-shaped notches near the gums, it may be time to review your oral hygiene regimen with your dentist or dental hygienist. Don’t worry, you won’t need to retire your toothbrush altogether.
Your dentist or dental hygienist can suggest proper techniques to restore and protect a healthy smile.
Cause and Effect
Strenuous brushing is the most common culprit, but any object that repeatedly rubs against your teeth can wear them down. Using toothpicks improperly can contribute to dental abrasion, as well chewing on fingernails, pencils or other objects.
In some cases, ill-fitting retainers or partial dentures can also be to blame. Believe it or not, the type of toothpaste you use may even be a factor as some formulas are more abrasive than others.
While protecting the appearance of your teeth may be the most obvious reason to prevent and treat dental abrasion, weakened enamel can also contribute to more serious dental problems over time. Many patients experience increased tooth sensitivity to heat and cold. In addition, without its protective outer layer, a tooth may be more susceptible to infection. In advanced cases, when dental abrasion of teeth is left undiagnosed and/or untreated, a tooth may need a tooth filling or tooth extraction.
Dental Abrasion Treatment: What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Do
While there are multiple ways to treat dental abrasion, it’s always better to prevent dental issues before they start. You can start your dental treatment by following a few simple guidelines:
- Always use a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Ask your dentist for tips on how to brush properly, and avoid brushing too hard.
- Refrain from chewing on toothpicks and pencils or biting your nails.
- Make sure removable dental appliances fit properly and have them checked on a regular basis.
- Don’t forget to schedule regular dental visits to give your dentist a chance to detect any problems early on.
If any portion of your tooth surface has begun to wear away, your dentist may be able to correct the problem with fluoride treatment. Depending on your needs, he or she may also use dental bonding or dental fillings to replace the lost tooth structure. Also be sure to ask your dentist about air abrasion, which is the newest method of cleaning out tooth decay — while also relieving dental anxiety.
The most important step you can take in tooth abrasion treatment and prevention is to see a dental professional on a regular basis and ask questions about your hygiene regimen.
- Dental Abscess
A dental abscess is not to be taken lightly. This is a serious infection that can result in pain, loss of tooth or worse. A dental abscess is the worsening of a dental cavity on the inside of the tooth pulp chamber. This area comprises the “meat” of your tooth. A dental abscess can also be the result of trauma to the tooth.
More common, however, is a dental abscess that starts with cavities. When a tooth has a dental cavity, it is open to bacteria and germs. If not filled in a timely manner by a dentist, a pocket of pus develops. Since infection is on the inside of the tooth, the pus has no place to drain, creating a dental abscess.
If a dental abscess goes untreated, the bacteria will thrive on the living tissue inside the tooth, make its way to the gum and further still to the bone. Advanced dental abscesses can kill the root of the tooth — which will relieve the toothache. But don’t be fooled by thinking one of your at-home toothache remedies is working — this just means the dental abscess has gotten worse!
Look out for the warning signs of tooth abscess:
- Toothache — number one sign that something is amiss
- Red swollen gums
- Throbbing/gnawing pain — especially when chewing
- Swelling in the jaw or face
- Area is warm to the touch
- Foul taste in mouth
- Bad breath
Your Dentist to the Rescue
If one or more of these symptoms occur — it’s time for you to beat feet to your dentist. He or she will most likely prescribe antibiotics to kill the infection.
This will relieve the pain and create a bacteria-free area to treat. Antibiotics alone will not cure a dental abscess, however. Once the infection subsides, your doc will need to get to the root of the problem.
The Root Is the Root
Once the infection is under control, the first order of business is to save the tooth. Most often this means root canal treatment. This can most often be taken care of by your primary dentist.
The goal is to remove the infected pulp and any tooth decay. If this doesn’t work, a tooth extraction is the last resort. With a tooth extraction comes the need for dental implants or a dental bridge so that your remaining teeth don’t shift. This makes a root canal infinitely more cost effective. Besides, keeping your natural teeth is nearly always the best course of action.
If you’re in an accident and/or you’ve had any trauma to your mouth, you’ll also want to see a dentist immediately.