If you've noticed small notches in your teeth along your gum line, you may suffer from abfraction. Abfraction is a form of tooth erosion unrelated to tooth decay. If left untreated, abfraction can lead to tooth decay and other oral health issues. General dentistry treatments play an important role in detecting abfraction damage and protecting oral health. For more information about dental abfraction treatment, schedule a consultation with Knoxville, TN dentist Thomas G. Zarger.
What Is Abfraction?
Abfraction is a form of tooth erosion, a loss of tooth tissue, unrelated to tooth decay. Abfraction occurs as a result of mechanical forces on the teeth. Over time, these forces can cause notches, or lesions, to form within the tooth's surface near the gum line. This area is particularly vulnerable to damage because it is the location where the hard, protective enamel of the teeth joins the cementum layer.
Not all mechanical forces cause abfraction lesions. Rather, abnormal forces, like those from teeth grinding and clenching, or the stresses from a misaligned, “bad” bite, are common culprits of abfraction damage. It is believed teeth grinding or chronic jaw clenching can cause abfraction lesions as a result of the constant strain and stress put on the teeth. Malocclusion, or a misaligned bite, may cause abfraction as a result of an uneven distribution of biting forces.
Abfraction and the Risk to Oral Health
Abfraction poses many risks to oral health and should be treated as soon as possible. Abfraction erodes the enamel, and although this erosion isn't initially caused by decay or acid, it can lead to tooth decay. Anytime the enamel is damaged, the teeth are left vulnerable to decay and further damage. When the enamel is damaged, bacteria and acids are allowed to reach the inner layers of the teeth, eventually reaching the root canal where the nerves and tissues responsible for nourishing the tooth are housed. Once bacteria reach these tissues, a root canal infection may develop. If left untreated, a root canal infection can cause severe decay and ultimately tooth loss.
Treatments for Abfraction
Treating abfraction begins with pinpointing the underlying cause through a thorough dental examination. Once the cause is determined, a treatment plan can be created to restore oral health and prevent further damage. Treatment plans may include:
- Bite correction with orthodontics: For those who have developed abfraction lesions as a result of malocclusion, orthodontic treatment may help. Orthodontics, including traditional metal braces or discreet Invisalign® treatment, reposition the teeth to correct bite issues and ensure even distribution of biting forces.
- Teeth grinding treatment: Teeth grinding treatment can prevent further abfraction lesions and protect dental health in those who suffer from chronic teeth grinding or clenching. Treatment for teeth grinding includes wearing a nocturnal bite guard or occlusal splint.
- Tooth-colored fillings: In addition to treating the underlying cause of abfraction, abfraction lesions must also be treated to restore oral health. Tooth-colored fillings can be paired with other treatments to completely restore the smile.
Discover Your Treatment Options
To discover your treatment options, or for more information about abfraction, we invite you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Zarger.