Tooth Erosion

Tooth erosion is when your enamel (the outer, protective layer of your teeth) wears thin. You can’t replace it once it’s gone, but you can take steps to halt it before it worsens. The best way to prevent enamel erosion is to practice good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly.


What is tooth erosion?

Tooth erosion is when your enamel (the outer protective layer of your teeth) wears down due to chemical or mechanical forces. When your tooth enamel becomes thin, it weakens your teeth and makes them more vulnerable to stains, sensitivity and cavities. Other names for tooth erosion include enamel erosion and dental erosion.

Left untreated, tooth erosion will continue to wear away the underlying layers of your teeth (dentin and tooth pulp). The good news is that this process happens slowly. If you’ve already lost some enamel, there are ways to halt tooth erosion before it worsens.

How common is tooth erosion?

Anyone can get tooth erosion. It’s common in all age groups, affecting nearly 50% of primary (baby) teeth and up to 45% of permanent (adult) teeth.


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Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of tooth erosion?

Symptoms vary from person to person. Things that indicate early-stage enamel erosion may include:

As enamel erosion worsens (eats through more layers of your teeth), you may start to develop pain. As it gets closer to your tooth pulp (which contains nerves), you’ll likely experience more discomfort.

What causes tooth erosion?

Many different factors can cause tooth erosion. Possible risk factors include:


What are the complications of tooth erosion?

Tooth erosion usually happens slowly over time. But left untreated, it can lead to several complications, including:

  • Yellow or stained teeth.
  • Tooth decay.
  • Rough or jagged edges on your teeth.
  • Broken or cracked teeth.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is tooth erosion diagnosed?

A dentist can diagnose tooth erosion during a routine dental examination. They’ll check for wear and tear, texture changes, pitting and other telltale signs. They may also take dental X-rays to determine the extent of damage.


Management and Treatment

How do dentists treat tooth erosion?

Enamel erosion treatment depends on the severity of your condition. Topical fluoride is the most common treatment for early-stage enamel erosion. Fluoride helps strengthen your enamel and stop erosion from getting worse. It can’t reverse tooth erosion, though. (You can’t regrow enamel once it’s gone.)

If you have more advanced tooth erosion, your dentist may recommend:


How can I stop enamel erosion?

Prevention is key when it comes to tooth erosion. Since you can’t regrow enamel once it’s gone, the best rule of thumb is to stop it before it starts.

To reduce your risk of tooth erosion:

  • Use fluoride toothpaste.
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
  • Floss your teeth once a day.
  • Limit your intake of sugary and acidic foods and beverages.
  • Rinse your mouth out with water between snacks and meals.
  • Wait at least 30 minutes to brush your teeth after eating. This gives your saliva time to wash away the acids in your mouth. Brushing too soon after eating can be too abrasive, and it may damage your enamel.
  • Avoid eating within three hours of bedtime.
  • Reduce your intake of beverages that contain alcohol.
  • Chew sugar-free gum after meals to boost saliva production.
  • See your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.

Outlook / Prognosis

Is tooth erosion serious?

Left untreated, dental erosion can result in serious consequences, including:

  • Hypersensitivity to heat, cold and sweets.
  • Exposed dentin, which increases your risk for cavities.
  • Eventual tooth loss.

The good news is that tooth erosion doesn’t happen overnight. If you treat it at the first sign of trouble, you can prevent it from getting worse.

Living With

When should I see my dentist?

You should visit your dentist regularly to maintain optimal oral health. Some people need visits every six months. Others may need more frequent appointments, especially those prone to dental erosion, tooth decay or gum disease. Your dentist can recommend a schedule that’s right for you.

In addition, you should schedule a dental appointment any time you develop teeth sensitivity or any visual signs of dental erosion like chips, pitting or discoloration. Early treatment can keep tooth erosion from getting worse.

Additional Common Questions

How do I know if I have enamel erosion or tooth decay?

Tooth erosion isn’t the same as tooth decay, but both can cause long-term damage to your oral health. Tooth decay happens when dental plaque stays on your teeth for too long. Tooth erosion occurs when your enamel weakens due to teeth grinding, acidic foods or everyday wear and tear. You can reduce your risk for both conditions with proper oral hygiene and routine dental visits.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Tooth erosion happens slowly, in most cases. Unless you know what to look for, you may not recognize the symptoms. That’s why regular dental checkups are so important. When dentists can detect and treat tooth erosion in its earliest stages, you have a much better chance of preventing cavities, infections and other dental issues. Ask your dentist how often you should have exams and cleanings. Preventive care can save you time, money and worry in the long run.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 09/14/2023.

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