September 5th, 2017
How long should teeth last before they become worn down? Well I have seen patients in their 90's having worn only about 1 mm (a very small amount) of the edges of their teeth away. I have also seen patients in their 30's who have worn 4-5 mm (about half of the exposed tooth) away. In the both cases they often feel the amount of wear is normal. When a 30 year has lost half of the tooth due to wear they will often not make it much past 50 before the teeth are so worn down that there is little chance of saving them.
Below are three pictures showing different amounts of tooth wear and patients in their 40's. We should expect to see a similar amount of tooth wear for each of them.
This is what would be normal to see for someone in the 40's. The teeth are in line which means function well together as well as look nice. By distributing the force of chewing across the mouth the teeth protect each instead of damaging each other during chewing.
In this mouth the teeth are crowded and because of the crowding the teeth function in a way that wears the teeth unevenly. Many patients with teeth worn like this assume it is because of grinding. Grinding may contribute to the wear however the majority of the wear in cases like this are because the teeth do not work together.
When this person chews she the crooked teeth fit into the worn and chipped patterns in her mouth. Some areas have worn completely through the enamel and other areas have no wear at all. If the teeth wear in the correct position the wear would be more even and with this balance there would be less wear overall.
Now this is not uncommon to see. Most of the time a patient with this much tooth wear is in their 50's or 60's but I have seen cases were they are in their 30's or 40's. Their are 3 things that contributed to this. First the position of the teeth was such that they were biting on just the edges, second an acidic mouth leading to softer enamel and third teeth grinding.
It is common for people to think that if they brush, floss and avoid candy all will go well. While that definitely helps poor tooth position, tooth grinding and having an acidic mouth will still result in damage leading to early tooth loss. Tooth position is mostly genetic. People who grind their teeth rubbing their teeth together for hours instead of minuets each day. An acidic mouth can be due to diet, medications or other medical conditions such as acid reflux. In all of these situations excessive tooth wear can be prevented or corrected.
Do you have a question about the wear on your teeth? Please let us know in the comments.