What causes tooth erosion?

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Foods, drinks, acid reflux and bad oral health habits can contribute to tooth erosion.

Tooth erosion, also known as dental erosion, is the loss of hard tissue on teeth to non-bacterial acids. The enamel, or outer layer of a tooth, is hard and protective, providing a barrier from harmful acids and physical harm. When worn down, eroding tissue can leave teeth vulnerable to a number of oral health issues:¹

  • Discolored teeth

  • Increased tooth sensitivity

  • Irregular textures on the tooth

  • Tooth fractures

  • Roughening of edges on the tooth

Does tooth enamel grow back?

Unfortunately, tooth enamel contains no active or living cells so it can’t regenerate like other parts of your body.² There are a few studies looking into the artificial regrowing of enamel, but none that provide the level of protection natural tooth tissues do.³

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Causes of tooth decay

Tooth erosion is primarily caused by the transition of plaque into acid. Plaque is a bacteria that forms in a sticky film on the tooth. Plaque turns into acid, which begins to wear down the enamel of your teeth. As plaque hardens, it becomes tartar, which can lead to cavities and infection.⁴

1. Food and drink

Certain foods and drinks accelerate tooth erosion and dental decay by damaging a tooth’s enamel.⁵ Because of this, things like soft drinks, tomatoes, and lemon juice can be harmful if consumed regularly.

Sugar can also cause tooth enamel erosion. The properties of sugar directly cause the wearing down of tooth enamel, especially in the teeth of children, whose mouths are still developing and maturing. Even children as young as one or two years of age who are put to bed with a bottle can experience tooth decay.⁶

2. Acid reflux and digestion

Your stomach and your teeth aren’t just connected through what you eat, but how you digest things. Acid reflux is a condition nearly 15% of Americans experience in which acids created in the body to aid in digestion come back up the throat.⁷

Over 80% of individuals with this digestive issue experience tooth erosion.⁸ In some cases, acid reflux’ damage cannot be seen immediately, but it is identifiable by a dental professional.⁹

Acid reflux is often a weekly occurrence, and over time can wear down tooth enamel. Dry mouth can also occur with digestive complications, which only further enhances the threat acids play to the enamel of your teeth.¹⁰

Preventing tooth enamel erosion

What to eat, and what not to eat to prevent tooth decay

Avoid sugary and acidic foods and drinks as often as possible. A few things you can eat which are known to cause low levels of enamel damage are:¹¹

  • Fiber rich fruits and veggies

  • Most dairy products

  • Green and black tea

  • Fluoride enriched waters

Oral care tips for preventing tooth erosion

A few ways to improve oral care habits to help prevent tooth erosion include:¹²

  • Brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste

  • Clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaner.

  • Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacking.

  • Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and exams.

Links to external sites are provided for your convenience in locating related information and services. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents and employees expressly disclaim any responsibility for and do not maintain, control, recommend, or endorse third-party sites, organizations, products, or services and make no representation as to the completeness, suitability, or quality thereof.

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. It is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.


  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/enamel-erosion#symptoms, 2017

  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/enamel-erosion#treatment-and-prevention, 2017

  3. https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-develop-world-first-liquid-that-regenerates-damaged-tooth-enamel, 2019

  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health/plaque#causes, 2019

  5. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/e/dietary-acids-and-your-teeth (Last accessed March 2020)

  6. https://www.healthline.com/health/remineralizing-teeth#fluoride-toothpaste, 2019

  7. https://www.healthline.com/health/gerd/facts-statistics-infographic#1, 2018

  8. http://www.jisppd.com/article.asp?issn=0970-4388;year=2018;volume=36;issue=2;spage=125;epage=129;aulast=Sarath, 2018

  9. https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=155719, 2020

  10. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/dry-mouth (Last accessed March 2020)

  11. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx (Last accessed March 2020)

  12. https://www.dentalhealth.org/dental-erosion (Last accessed March 2020)


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