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Dental Erosion on Rise in U.S.

Tooth enamel losses, found in 30% of middle schoolers studied, blamed on acids in sweet drinks

WEDNESDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) -- Dental erosion -- the loss of the teeth's protective enamel -- is on the increase in the United States, researchers say.

"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," study co-author Bennett T. Amaechi, an associate professor of community dentistry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, said in a prepared statement.

Amaechi led the San Antonio portion of the study, which also included researchers at Indiana University and the University of California, San Francisco. They looked at 900 middle school students (aged 10 to 14), and found that about 30 percent of them had the condition.

Dental erosion is caused by acids found in many common products, including soft drinks, sports drinks, some fruit juices and herbal teas.

"When consumed in excess, these products can easily strip the enamel from the teeth, leaving the teeth more brittle and sensitive to pain. The acids in these products can be so corrosive that not even cavity-causing bacteria can survive when exposed to them," Amaechi said.

Regular use of some types of medications, such as aspirin, also may cause dental erosion. Certain medical conditions, such as acid reflux disease or eating disorders (such as bulimia) associated with chronic vomiting, can cause dental erosion because of the gastric acids that are regurgitated into the mouth.

"It is important for dental practitioners to identify the erosion and its causes before it is too late. 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," Amaechi said.

The findings were published in current issue of the Dental Tribune.

More information

The Columbia University Medical Center, School of Dental and Oral Surgery has more about dental abrasion and erosion.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, news release, March 5, 2008

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