Tooth abrasion vs. Tooth attrition vs. Tooth gingival recession

Tooth Abrasion vs. Recession vs. Tooth Attrition

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Tooth abrasion vs. tooth recession vs. tooth attrition

Tooth recession (also known as a gingival recession) and Tooth abrasion (also called dental abrasion) and tooth attrition are dental conditions that require care and all have a common cause. We will be looking at each of these three oral health issues, their causes, treatments and prevention.

Dental Abrasion

tooth abrasion pictures

Tooth abrasion or dental abrasion is caused from contact with external factors. It is not a tooth-tooth interaction, rather it is caused by external interactions.

Dental abrasion differs from teeth erosion which causes the enamel to dissolve as a result of acids. This is mostly caused by acid in food and drinks.

Causes of Dental Abrasion

Dental abrasion doesn’t appear at once. Rather, it occurs over a period. It can be caused by the application of too much pressure while brushing. Using a hard-bristled toothbrush on your teeth or making use of abrasive toothpaste is another cause of dental abrasion.

If you also use any mouth adornments or jewelry, or regularly bite your pen or other hard objects, you are likely going to wear out your tooth and develop tooth abrasion.

Symptoms of Tooth Abrasion

Some telltale signs indicate to you that you’re developing a tooth abrasion and need medical attention. Some of these symptoms are briefly outlined below

The appearance of notches at the place where your teeth and the gum lines intersect. It sometimes causes the affected part to have a shade that’s darker than the rest of the tooth because of the exposure of the underlying dentin.

Also, if you notice sudden tooth sensitivity, it could be as a result of dental abrasion. The dissolving of the enamel which causes the dentin to become exposed can lead to teeth sensitivity. 

Another indication of a tooth or dental abrasion will be a pain. If you feel pain in your gum or teeth while brushing your teeth, it might be a sign of abrasion.

Once you notice any of these or similar symptoms, you should quickly pay your dentist a visit.

Possible treatment and protection of teeth after abrasion

Dental abrasion, if left untreated, can result in tooth cavity or tooth loss. This is because dentin, which is they layer behind the enamel, is not strong enough to protect the teeth like the enamel. When it gets exposed it causes plaque and mouth bacteria to gradually damage the tooth. The end-result of an untreated dental abrasion can be tooth extraction.

Dental abrasion treatment

Fluoride Varnish is one of the solutions to the problem of dental abrasion. The fluoride varnish, when applied to your abrasion by your dentist, helps to strengthen the surface of the teeth to prevent further damage.

If the damage is more severe, your dentist may recommend a tooth colored filling or bonding to be done in place of the lost enamel.

Another treatment option to fix the exposed dentin is to cover it with a veneer or crown. The tooth will be covered by a veneer or crown whose color will be the same as the natural color of your tooth. This is done to protect the dentin from getting further damaged by cavity-causing bacteria. This will also stop the sensitivity cause tooth abrasion. 

Preventing Dental Abrasion

The treatment proposed above for dental abrasion is for simple protection of further damage. This is because a dental abrasion is an irreversible oral health issue. However, there are things you can do to prevent tooth abrasion. 

One is to make use of soft-bristled toothbrush instead of the hard-bristled types. (Check out the number one electric toothbrush I recommend in this BURST toothbrush review)

Make use of toothpaste that are rich in fluoride. Such toothpaste will give your enamel extra strength.

Drop the habits of biting your nails, chewing hard (or even soft) objects that are not food. Resist from brushing your teeth too hard. While brushing apply gentle, intent and short strokes for maximum effect.

Also, going for a regular oral or dental check-ups with your dentist will help you stay ahead of every possible oral health issues you might possibly develop.

Tooth Attrition

tooth attrition

Tooth abrasion also differs from tooth attrition which is a tooth-tooth interaction that wears the tooth surface when the surfaces of the tooth rub together and against each other. This is common in people with bruxism who teeth grind.

Tooth Recession / Gingivial Recession

tooth recession

Tooth recession or gingival recession is a condition that exposes the roots of the teeth and makes it susceptible to bacteria and plaque. Gingival recession arises from the loss of gum tissue and can lead to tooth decay if not properly and timely addressed.

Causes of Gingival recession

Like with teeth abrasion, gingival recession can be caused by an application of too much force to the brushing of teeth or the use of a hard-bristle toothbrush. Poor oral hygiene is another cause of the gingival recession. Also, this condition can occur as a result of physical wears of gums, tissue inflammation, as well as hereditary factors.

Symptoms of tooth recession

Symptoms and tell-tale signs of tooth recession include the following

Gingivitis or inflammation of the gum which can also lead to periodontitis. Periodontitis causes pocketing spaces between gums and teeth. So if you notice inflammation in your gums or spaces in the gum line, this might be an indication of gingival recession.

Change in the appearance of the teeth. If you notice your tooth is growing longer than usual, or the space between your teeth is increasing, this might be an indication of tooth recession.

Another symptom is that you might feel like you are about to lose your tooth, or that the tooth is about to fall out.

Sensitivity to heat and cold is another symptom of tooth recession and it is as a result of the exposure of the root of the tooth.

Bleeding gums and bad breath are also examples of symptoms that are indicative of a gingival recession.

Once you notice any of the listed symptoms, the best line of action will be to pay your dentist a visit for proper medical attention.

Treatment of tooth recession

A lot of times, you might be suffering from mild tooth recession. In such a case, you might not need any special treatment and you might just be told to take some protective preventative measures by your dentist. 

However, if you need to be treated, some treatment that might be recommended to you include the following:

The dentist might use composite resin that are of the same color as the tooth to cover the exposed surface. 

Your dentist can also fill the gaps between your gum and the teeth with porcelain or composite that is of the same pink colour as the gum.

Also, like the case with dental abrasion, your dentist might decide to cover the missing enamel space with veneers that blend perfectly into the color of the tooth.

Also, your dentist might recommend and employ the gradual re-positioning and correcting of the gum margin. This process takes a little time, and it is known as orthodontics or braces.

The dentist can also recommend surgery for treating the recession by taking tissue from one part of your mouth and putting it in the referring spot. The tissue over time will then grow and cover the receding area of the gum. The is called a gum graft.

Prevention of tooth recession

Prevention is better than cure as we’ve heard a lot of times. The same with tooth recession. There are some preventive measures that you can take to prevent your teeth from receding.

The first point of prevention will be to replace your hard-bristled toothbrush with a soft-bristled one.

Resist from brushing the teeth with force, instead, apply gentle strokes with intent.

Maintain a very good oral hygiene, and go for a regular dental check-up

Once you have any concern or reason to be worried about your dental or oral health, never hesitate to visit your dentist, and do so in time.


Whether you have tooth attrition, tooth abrasion or tooth recession, you will always want to maintain a regular schedule with your dentist. They can identify problems early on and help prevent further damage.

Kelly Hancock, RDH

Kelly is a registered dental hygienist and oral health care provider. She is passionate about oral hygiene and encourages people to achieve optimal oral health. She has been working in the dental profession for 16 years and worked in many different roles in the dental industry. Kelly is currently a pediatric dental hygienist specializing in children’s dentistry. She is committed to helping others with their oral health care issues and helping others achieve a smile they love.

This article and all advice on this website, Toothbrush Life, is intended to help people gain knowledge about general oral health topics. No articles or advice on this website are intended to replace professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or qualified healthcare provider to help you with any questions you have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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