Understanding Tooth Erosion In Children
Local orthodontist, Dr. Susan Lempert, educates concerned parents about the mysterious finding of “disappearing” teeth. Dr. Lempert explains:
“Parents will bring their children in for an orthodontic consultation and among their more traditional concerns like crowding or spacing they will note short, dull, and worn looking teeth. In some instances, I have patients whose baby teeth have been almost entirely worn away. During our initial orthodontic examination, we can detect evidence of acid erosion in children and advise parents on the best course of action.”
Dr. Lempert incorporates recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry in her practice to help identify and assist in the treatment of acid erosion. She works together with parents to develop an understanding of the issue and to assemble a team of specialists, including their dentist, to help them combat this complex problem.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry classifies the source of the acid into two categories, intrinsic and extrinsic sources:
- Intrinsic sources of acid are most frequently attributed to children with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) as well as psycho-social disorders like bulimia that cause stomach acid to be regurgitated into the mouth.
- Extrinsic sources of acid come from drinks and foods with high levels of acid like soda, sports drinks and citrus fruits. In both instances, the acid demineralizes the teeth and makes them softer and more susceptible to wearing away or “disappearing”.
Certainly, there are many other factors that can exacerbate the extent of acid erosion like, the quantity and quality of a child’s saliva. Less saliva, as can happen when someone is dehydrated, provides less buffering capacity to neutralize the acid. Enamel, the outer protective coating on teeth, can vary in quality from person to person. Children with weaker enamel will display harsher effects from erosive acids. Excessive use of firm, abrasive toothbrushes or paste can remove the softened enamel. Additionally, habits like bruxism (tooth grinding) can significantly increase the deleterious effects of acid on the teeth.
Successful treatment tooth erosion in children requires first that the problem is identified. Orthodontists are in a unique position to recognize the effects of acid erosion in children as they see their patients more frequently and thus may be able to readily note changes in the tooth surfaces. They can then work with the pediatric dentist, GI specialist and pediatrician to identify and eliminate the source of the acid, and ultimately restore and protect the teeth. During orthodontic treatment Dr. Lempert provides her patients with a prescription strength fluoride toothpaste that helps protect and strengthen tooth enamel during orthodontic care.
If you have orthodontic concerns for your child or think your child might have acid tooth erosion Dr. Lempert provides complimentary orthodontic screenings for children in her Swedesboro office. You can visit her website at: www.lempertsmile.com to learn more about her practice.
Dr. Lempert graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Human Biology. She received her Master of Science in Oral Biology Degree, Certificate in Orthodontics, and Doctor of Dental Medicine Degree from Temple University School of Dentistry.