Why Are My Teeth Breaking?!
Brittle Teeth: Causes & Remedies
Written by Lacy Walker, RDH, BS, CDA, COSE, MAADH, FAAOSH
What causes Brittle Teeth?
Brittle teeth are a common problem that can have many different causes and can be caused by various factors, including genetics, poor dental hygiene, and acidic foods. You may be more likely to have brittle teeth if it runs in your family. Thin or weak enamel can make your teeth more prone to breakage, and eating acidic or sugary foods can slowly erode your tooth enamel.
Enamel is the hard outer layer of your teeth and is stronger than your bones. The only substance on earth that is stronger than enamel is diamond. Enamel is comprised of 96% mineral, giving your teeth white color and protection from damage. However, it can become damaged by acidic foods and drinks, aggressive brushing, dry mouth, and grinding your teeth. A dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, can contribute to more demineralization, which means your teeth are losing minerals and strength. If your teeth chip or fracture easily, there's usually an underlying reason your teeth are so brittle.
Symptoms of brittle teeth
If you have brittle teeth, you may notice that your teeth are more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. You may also see visible cracks or chips in your teeth. In severe cases, your teeth may break or crumble when you bite into something hard.
What conditions cause brittle teeth?
The most common cause of brittle teeth is genetics. If you have brittle teeth, likely, someone in your family does as well. Many genes can contribute to the problem, so it's complicated to say exactly how it works.
Bone fragility and fracture of bone with minor trauma are hallmarks of a hereditary disorder, dentinogenesis imperfecta (DI). (1) DI is an inherited trait where the dentin of the teeth does not form correctly and is characterized by an opalescent discoloration, with brittleness affecting both baby and permanent teeth. (1)
Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), also known as "brittle bone disease," is another genetic disorder that currently has no cure. (2) Patients with this type of disorder have more dental problems than the average population. The primary dental problem with OI is DI. However, it is not visibly present in every patient affected by OI.
Malnutrition can be defined as "a state resulting from lack of intake or uptake of nutrition that leads to altered body composition, and an increase of developing oral health problems. (3, 4) Your oral health is linked to your overall health; a lack of nutrients can contribute to brittle teeth. Your nutritional intake also plays a role in maintaining a balanced oral microbiome. Acidic foods and beverages can affect the strength of your enamel.
Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
Bruxism is the dental term for teeth grinding and is a habit that can be caused by stress, anxiety, nutritional deficiencies, and even sleep disorders. People who grind their teeth can exert up to 250 pounds of pure force and are found to be more common in children, adolescents, and young adults. (5)
What can I do to avoid brittle teeth?
You can do a few things to prevent your teeth from becoming brittle. One is to practice good dental hygiene, which includes brushing, flossing, and visiting your dental professionals regularly. You should also avoid acidic foods and drinks, as they can erode your tooth enamel. If you have a family history of brittle teeth, consider getting genetic testing to determine your risk.
Brittle teeth treatment options
If you have brittle teeth, it's essential to see a dentist so they can determine the best course of treatment for you. Treatment options may include remineralization therapy, which helps to strengthen enamel, or tooth bonding, which can help to repair cracked or chipped teeth.
1. Shilpa, P. S., David, C. M., Kaul, R., Sanjay, C. J., & Narayan, B. K. (2012). Brittle teeth with brittle bone in a family for four generations: Case report and literature review. Contemporary clinical dentistry, 3(2), 197–201. https://doi.org/10.4103/0976-237X.96822
2. Rousseau, M., Retrouvey, M., & the Brittle Bone Disease Consortium, M. O. (2018). Osteogenesis imperfecta: potential therapeutic approaches. PeerJ, 6. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.5464
3. Algra, Y., Haverkort, E., Kok, W., Etten-Jamaludin, F. V., Schoot, L. V., Hollaar, V., Naumann, E., van der Schueren, M. D., & Jerković-Ćosić, K. (2021). The Association between Malnutrition and Oral Health in Older People: A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 13(10). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13103584
4. Sheetal, A., Hiremath, V. K., Patil, A. G., Sajjansetty, S., & Kumar, S. R. (2013). Malnutrition and its oral outcome - a review. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research : JCDR, 7(1), 178–180. https://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2012/5104.2702
5. Sleep Foundation. (2022) The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Teeth Grinding. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/