Mar. 8, 2008 Cavities or not, your teeth could be in more trouble than you know because of a silent and destructive phenomenon called dental erosion. A faculty member at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio has found that the incidence of dental erosion, which is the steady loss of the teeth’s protective enamel, is on the rise in the United States.
Bennett T. Amaechi, M.S., Ph.D., associate professor of community dentistry at the UT Health Science Center, and colleagues discovered a 30 percent prevalence rate of dental erosion among 10- to 14-year-olds in the United States. Dr. Amaechi led the San Antonio portion of the nation’s first population-based, multi-center study of dental erosion. The study, involving 900 middle school students, was conducted in 2004 and 2005 at Indiana University, the University of California at San Francisco and the UT Health Science Center San Antonio.
Dental erosion has not been widely analyzed in the United States. “This study is important because it confirms our suspicions of the high prevalence of dental erosion in this country and, more importantly, brings awareness to dental practitioners and patients of its prevalence, causes, prevention and treatment,” Dr. Amaechi said.
He explained that dental erosion is caused by acids found in products that are being more widely consumed than ever in the U.S. These include soft drinks, some fruit juices, sports drinks, herbal teas, beer salts, and the Lucas brand of candy imported from Mexico that is especially popular among children in San Antonio and South Texas.
“When consumed in excess, these products can easily strip the enamel from the teeth, leaving the teeth more brittle and sensitive to pain,” Dr. Amaechi said. “The acids in these products can be so corrosive that not even cavity-causing bacteria can survive when exposed to them.”
Dr. Amaechi said some medications including aspirin, when taken regularly, have erosive potential. Some underlying medical conditions such as acid reflux disease or disorders associated with chronic vomiting, including bulimia, also can cause dental erosion because of the gastric acids that are regurgitated into the mouth.
“It is important for dental practitioners to identify dental erosion and its causes before it is too late,” Dr. Amaechi said. “Because dental erosion creates a smooth and shiny appearance of the enamel and causes no pain or sensitivity in its early stages, most patients are not aware that they are suffering from the condition until the problem becomes severe. Therefore, the responsibility of early detection and treatment falls on the professionals.”
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