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I have been told I have attrition going on in my mouth. What is it? What's the big deal?

Let’s look at the word. The word attrition refers to the general reduction in number or strength because of stress. Dentally speaking, attrition is one of three forms of tooth wear people may experience. The other two causes of wear include erosion and abrasion. Attrition is tooth wear as the result of tooth-to-tooth contact. It is currently more prevalent than in the past as many more people are retaining their natural teeth into old age. If attrition is ignored, it can become a big deal!


Attrition Effects

The impact of attrition is the mechanical wearing down of the biting and chewing surfaces of the teeth. The back teeth become flatter, and the front teeth become shorter. The result is the loss of tooth tissue and once the outer enamel is worn away, the softer inside part of the tooth, the dentin, will begin to wear away at a faster rate over time. In untreated, attrition will have a disfiguring effect on one’s looks. Patients often report sensitivity to sweet, hot and cold food and drink.


Treatment Options

The treatment plan is influenced by a number of factors such as the size or location of the attrition and how early it is addressed. In small areas of erosion, it is possible to apply a chemical to desensitize the area or use laser treatment. In some cases, the treatment may be as basic as a night guard to prevent further wear. Larger area of exposed dentin can be repaired by bonding an enamel replacement material to the tooth. When large areas of breakdown of tooth structure has occurred, correcting the bite, placing veneers or crowns which are fitted over the entire tooth may be needed. The appropriate treatment plan is unique to each patient.


A very important tool in communicating and educating our patients is the intraoral camera. It allows the dentist to show the patient the status of attrition and provides an opportunity to educate them regarding information about the condition.


Unfortunately, attrition is one of the least treated dental conditions these days. Some patients dismiss it when first diagnosed and don’t seek treatment because the wear progresses slowly enough that the patient doesn’t see the changes occurring. Before long, it becomes a more difficult, painful, costly and complex dental problem. We take this condition seriously and want to arrest it before it gets out of hand. Give our office a call, 612-781-9270, to set up an appointment today.