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Understanding Dental Abfraction: What Is It?

Dr. Hellwig Jun 24, 2016

A case of dental abfractionThe people of San Diego deserve excellent dental care services, with a focus on major rehabilitative care as well as cosmetic and general procedures. That's why our practice is proud to offer patients the latest in advanced restorative dentistry as well as cosmetic and preventative services. We're well-equipped to meet diverse needs and address even the most peculiar dental health situation.

Recently we've had the issue of dental abfraction come up in the practice on multiple occasions. Since dental abfraction is misunderstood and a point of debate among professionals, we'd like to go into some basics with patients about this problem on the blog.

What Is Dental Abfraction?

Dental abfraction refers to the formation of small notches on the upper portion of your teeth near the gumline. Rather than these notches/hard-tissue lesions being caused by tooth decay or tooth erosion like many other issues involving damaged tooth structure, they form as the result of natural forces exerted on the teeth over a long period of time.

The term "abfraction" was first used to discuss this type of hard tissue dental lesion in 1991. However, there is some ongoing controversy about the nature of abfractions. More on that briefly.

The Causes of Dental Abfraction

The primary causes of dental abfraction are related to long-term wear and tear on the teeth. The most common reasons why force is exerted on the teeth include the following:

  • Biting
  • Chewing
  • Eating

As the notches in the teeth form, brushing your teeth may cause the notches to be rounded out. Such is the effect of the bristles of your toothbrush on your tooth structure.

In addition to the above, teeth grinding (bruxism) has been shown to cause abfraction and exacerbate its formation. This makes sense since teeth grinding exerts significant pressure on your teeth.

Professional Controversy Over Dental Abfraction

Dental health professionals have been debating about dental abfraction going all the way back to 1991. While no one can deny that these notches do form and affect dental health, the primary source of the debate is on the exact cause of dental abfraction.

In short, some dentists believe that dental abfraction is caused by the force exerted by the teeth as they press together as well as a host of other issues. More research is being performed in order to truly determine what causes dental abfraction, and as new findings emerge, we will be more than happy to share them with you.

Signs and Symptoms of Dental Abfraction

The telltale sign and symptom of dental abfraction is a wedge-shaped lesion or saucer-shaped lesion that forms where the tooth meets the gumline. Some have suggested that dental abfraction can also contribute to issues with tooth sensitivity, which can be quite uncomfortable when you have food or beverages that are hot or cold in temperature.

During a checkup, a dentist will be on the lookout for these hard-tissue lesions since they are certainly not what one would classify as healthy, or at least ideal for dental health.

Treatment Options for Dental Abfraction

The most common treatment option for dental abfraction is the use of a tooth-colored dental filling. The restoration which will be able to rebuild the missing tooth structure near the gumline and prevent further loss of tooth structure in the process.

If the abfraction is associated with tooth grinding, a bite guard may be considered to reduce the amount of development of further hard-tissue lesions.

Learn More About Dental Abfraction

For more information about dental abfraction and how it can be treated, be sure to contact our cosmetic and restorative dentistry center today. We look forward to your visit and helping you have the healthiest and most beautiful smile possible.

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