Is that painful tooth due to a cavity or an abfraction lesion? Your dentist will know.
A cavity isn’t the only sign of tooth damage. Your teeth can also be damaged by what is known as an abfraction lesion.
Abfraction lesions are not cavities but are instead known as non-carious cervical lesions or NCCL. The most pronounced mark of an abfraction lesion is a V-shaped indentation between the gum line and the top of the tooth. Because the lesion slowly eats away at the outer layer of enamel, the next layer of dentin becomes exposed, leading to sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures. In that way, an abfraction mimics tooth decay. When your dentist determines the exact cause of the abfraction lesion, they can guide you to proper treatment.
What causes an abfraction lesion?
Abfraction lesions have no singular cause, as each case is different. But the lesion may likely be attributed to three main circumstances:
Bruxism. Excession and long-term tooth grinding may be the cause of the abfraction. Similarly, biting down hard when chewing is another reason the lesions might develop.
Acid Erosion. Acid erodes enamel, resulting in the gap between the gums and tooth. So a diet high in acidic foods and drinks can lead to a lesion. If you suffer from acid reflux, you’re at greater risk of an abfraction.
Misaligned Teeth. A malocclusion, or misaligned teeth, disrupts your bite. Over time, the wear and tear on your teeth from not biting properly gnaws at the enamel and can lead to an abfraction lesion.
According to one study, the risk of an abfraction lesion rises from 3 percent to 17 percent as you grow older.
Treating an abfraction lesion
Treatment depends on the severity of the lesion and whether it’s causing significant pain. Treatment may be required if the lesion extends well below the gums and is getting close to the pulp and nerve. Treatment may also be necessary if the lesion is difficult to clean and prone to tooth decay.
Abfraction lesions cannot be reversed. However, treatment can reduce any discomfort or make the indentation less noticeable. Treatment prevents further erosion and possibly gum recession. An untreated lesion can also weaken the tooth structure, leading to tooth loss. To avoid those possibilities, your dentist will recommend one of these five treatments:
Dental Filling. Much like a dentist fills a cavity, your dentist can cover the abfraction lesion with a resin material matching your tooth color. Your dentist will shape the filling and harden it with a special light for a natural look. Your dentist may perform a gum graft if severe gum recession accompanies the lesion.
Orthodontic Treatment. Orthodontic treatment can realign your bite so you don’t place excessive force on your teeth.
Dietary Changes. If acid is the cause of the lesion, you may want to limit your intake of acidic foods and liquids.
Mouthguard. To prevent further damage caused by bruxism, your dentist can fit you with a mouthguard to wear at night.
Use a Toothpaste for Sensitivity. An abfraction lesion can make you sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. Switch to a toothpaste made to reduce sensitivity.
Are your teeth bothering you?
Schedule an appointment at Espire’s Mission Valley location today! Our highly trained dentists can check your teeth to determine if the pain is caused by a cavity or an abfraction lesion. They’ll also help you navigate through proper treatment from day one to the end of your recovery.
Don’t live near our Mission Valley, CA office? Find one of our other locations near you.
Mission Valley, CA
8989 Rio San Diego Drive
San Diego, CA 92108