From the moment they erupt from your gums, your teeth are under constant attack. The naturally-occurring oral bacteria in your mouth interact with the sugars and carbohydrates you consume, creating an acidic reaction that erodes your dental enamel. This process can be greatly accelerated by inadequate (or even negligent) oral hygiene. Additionally, the biting surfaces of your teeth are used to grip and chew food, and rest against the biting surfaces of the teeth in the opposing dental arch. This friction means that tooth wear can become a problem for the biting surfaces of your teeth. So how can a dentist reverse this wear?
With any form of restorative dentistry, early intervention is extremely wise. The earlier a problem is solved, the less invasive (and yes, less expensive) that solution is going to be. A dentist can correct minor tooth wear on your biting surfaces using a composite resin, which will be tinted to match the color of your teeth. This resin is applied to the biting surface in a thin layer. It's then dried (using a special light), before an additional layer is added. This continues until the tooth's vertical dimensions (its height) has been restored, and the biting surface has been reconstructed with the composite resin.
Inlays and Onlays
Adding composite resin to a tooth in order to replace its biting surface is known as a direct restoration (because it's applied directly to the tooth). When the biting surface has undergone significant deterioration, a direct restoration may be inadequate. This means that an indirect dental restoration must be manufactured and applied to the tooth. A ceramic inlay or onlay may be appropriate, and this can be thought of as a partial dental crown. It covers the tooth's deficient biting surface and extends partially down the sides of the tooth's vertical surfaces, where it meets your dental enamel. The margin between the restoration and the enamel is blended, so it won't be visible.
In extreme cases of tooth wear, a more comprehensive indirect restoration will be needed—both to restore the tooth's biting surface and to reinforce the tooth's overall strength. This involves a ceramic dental crown being permanently bonded to the tooth, completely surrounding it on all sides. Although it's going to be a comprehensive measure that will save the tooth, the effort and expense of a dental crown can often be spared with early intervention. Your own biting surfaces may be restorable with composite resin bonding, but if the tooth wear is allowed to progress, then an indirect restoration may be your only option.
The deterioration of a tooth's biting surfaces isn't a trivial matter, and can lead to further decline, and even total loss of the tooth. If you're concerned about the biting surfaces of your teeth, please see your dentist without delay.