Why Are My Teeth Wearing Down?


The wearing down of teeth involves the slow and steady loss of tooth structure. This type of damage is not the result of decay, an injury, or accident. Through the natural aging process a certain amount of wear and tear is expected and considered to be normal. Additional wear can occur which is beyond natural aging. Worn down teeth can negatively impact the appearance and function of the teeth. The damage can also cause pain when the nerve is exposed. The three categories of tooth wear are attrition, abrasion, and erosion.


Attrition describes tooth wear cause by other teeth. The tooth structure is often damaged from clenching or grinding of the teeth. The term attrition is used to describe the mechanical wearing down of the chewing and biting surfaces of the teeth. When patients grind their teeth, there is tooth to tooth contact which causes damage to the surface of the tooth. Grinding or bruxism can cause the back teeth to become flat and shortening of the front teeth. In cases of severe attrition, the shortened front teeth can cause the face to appear disfigured. Attrition can also cause an increased sensitivity to sweets or hot and cold.


In many cases, bruxism or involuntary grinding of teeth takes place when patients are sleeping. Main causes associated with bruxism include stress, anxiety, and malocclusion or an abnormal positioning of the jaws and teeth. Many patients benefit from the use of a night guard which can aid in protecting the teeth and jaw from the forces of grinding.


Abrasion occurs when the surface of the tooth is worn away due to friction. When patients use a hard toothbrush and brush their teeth using too much force, it can damage their teeth. Abrasion is often most obvious on the outer surfaces of the back teeth.


Erosion occurs when the surface of the tooth is worn away by an acid. The acid can dissolve the enamel and the dentin. Erosion is a common cause of worn down teeth and can often be prevented. Two acid sources in the mouth are dietary and gastric. Foods which are high in their acid content can cause erosion of the enamel and dentine. Acid damages the teeth by dissolving the tooth’s calcium. Highly acidic drinks include soft drinks, sparkling water, and citrus drinks.



Once the enamel has worn down, it can allow for the dentin to also wear away more quickly. Dentin is must softer than the enamel and can easily be damaged. The loss of enamel often results in increased sensitivity. When a patient has a small area of erosion, it can be desensitized by a dentist.


In cases of more severe erosion with larger amounts of exposed dentist, the dentist will often use a filling or place a crown over the tooth. This allows the tooth to be restored. Crown lengthening procedures are often required in addition to a crown. As the tooth wears away, it will continue to erupt and pull the gums and bone along with it. If this is not properly corrected, there will be inadequate tooth structure available. This can compromise the appearance and function of the restoration.


Can Worn Down Teeth Be Fixed