American adults have surface enamel wear due to dental erosion and abrasion caused by common foods, beverages, and medications, according to dental experts who gathered here today to discuss the evolving role of the primary care dental professional. To address the issue, the faculty called upon dental professionals across the country to help educate patients about the importance of surface enamel in maintaining the shine and smooth appearance of their teeth.
"All of us have some degree of surface enamel wear due to erosion and abrasion," said Gerard Kugel, DMD, MS, associate dean for research at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. "We believe dentists and, especially, dental hygienists should be telling their patients about the common causes and potentially important aesthetic consequences of surface dental erosion and abrasion."
Evolution in primary care
The faculty convened to discuss how the responsibilities of primary care dentistry have changed in recent years, including the enormous increase in cosmetic procedures, as well as the ways in which the field might evolve in the years ahead. Presentation topics included a review of fluoride and its clinical implications; diagnosis and management of dental erosion; the emergence of cosmetic dentistry; and a look at the possible future of primary care dentistry.
Dr. Kugel, who specializes in clinical research and cosmetic dentistry, chaired a distinguished four-member faculty, which included Dr. Sebastian G. Ciancio, chair of the department of periodontics and endodontics and distinguished service professor at the School of Dental Medicine of the State University of New York at Buffalo; Dr. John J. Hefferren, research professor at the Higuchi Biosciences Center at the University of Kansas at Lawrence; and Dr. Robert A. Uchin, dean of the College of Dental Medicine at Nova Southeastern University. The discussion was supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Church and Dwight Co., Inc., makers of ARM & HAMMER® dental products.
Understanding surface enamel wear
The pathology of erosion- and abrasion-related surface enamel wear is multifactorial and not completely understood. With erosion, it is believed, acids in the diet tend to weaken surface enamel, leaving tiny, uneven crevices where plaque and stains can collect. Common dietary causes of erosion that can reduce gloss and increase surface roughness include soda, orange juice, and many sport drinks. Abrasion is typically caused by improper brushing technique or excessively abrasive dentifrices.
"Although surface enamel wear is very common in the United States," Dr. Kugel explained, "we are hopeful that clinicians will begin to educate patients about this important, but underappreciated, cosmetic issue as part of a comprehensive oral care program."