Clinical studies suggest there is an increase in ‘pathological’ tooth wear in anterior (or front) teeth. Don’t let the name confuse you, pathological wear is simply tooth wear that exceeds what would be considered normal or expected wear at a person’s age. Observations show this unexpected or unusual amount of tooth wear is now particularly more prevalent in younger patients.
Pathological tooth wear can create a wide range of problems, both aesthetically and functionally. Increased sensitivity or hypersensitivity, pain and decreased chewing ability are some issues, but from a psychological perspective, the wearing of teeth can negatively influence a person’s perception and create image issues. In some cases, reduced self-confidence can lead to difficulty forming meaningful relationships, avoiding social interaction and diminished career prospects. It is these effects of wear on our most visible teeth that can have the most significant impact on a person’s quality of life.
Why is this excessive wear happening?
In younger patients, increased pathological tooth wear has been linked to the pace and pressures of the young person’s world:
- Consumption of acidic beverages, including soft drink; diet, energy and sports drinks.
- Increased prevalence of eating disorders, for example digestive acids coming into contact with teeth
- Lifestyle factors, including the use of recreational drugs
in older patients, the issues seem to stem more from the fact that we are living longer and retaining teeth much longer, however tooth wear in older populations is exacerbated by the symptoms of dry mouth, which is often caused by other systematic diseases and taking medications.
How do we manage anterior tooth wear?
There are a number of strategies dentists and their patients can utilise to manage tooth wear. After detailed assessment of a patient’s history and possible causes of wear, including diet, the amount of acid teeth come into contact with, lifestyle factors, and health issues that might be contributing to dry mouth, a dentist will be able to establish the causes of a patient’s wear, and provide a clear approach to managing the issue, which may include restoring the teeth, and minimally-invasive aesthetic treatments for enhancing the appearance of worn surfaces.
It is important to remember that no two patients are alike, and the causes of tooth wear may vary, but in all cases the individual must have an awareness and understanding of the factors contributing to tooth wear. We play a crucial role in preserving our remaining teeth tissue, and ensuring any restorations will enjoy longevity and functionality for as long as possible, it is vital we care for our teeth and avoid or reduce these damaging factors in our lifestyle as much as we can.