Before we repair teeth, we want to make sure we understand why they are damaged. This helps us design appropriate, durable restorations. There are many ways our teeth can be damaged, but a few come up most commonly:
Tooth decay is caused by oral bacteria that live in our mouths. The most damaging bacteria consume sugars and other simple carbohydrates to produce acid. The acid attacks our teeth enamel, removing minerals, and eventually creating small holes called cavities or dental caries. Left untreated, these holes can grow, eventually allowing bacteria to infect the tooth.
Erosion is also caused by acid in our mouths, but the acid comes from other sources. While reflux can increase the acid level in the mouth, most erosion is caused by acidic foods and beverages. Erosion can make your teeth turn yellow, brown, or gray, and this discoloration won’t respond to teeth whitening. Erosion also weakens teeth making them vulnerable to trauma or wear.
Our teeth are very hard, but they are also somewhat brittle, which makes them vulnerable to chipping and cracking under force. Accidents, falls, and violence are common causes of tooth trauma.
Although the food we eat is softer than in the past, our teeth can still wear down from normal biting and chewing. Over time, this can cause visible and even painful damage to teeth. Accelerated tooth wear might be a symptom of temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or TMD) or other bite problems.