Do I have "soft" teeth?!
January 4, 2012 4:41 AM   Subscribe

Why are my upper left molars so fragile?! I am only 27, but my last three teeth are all dead and have cracked. I had a lot of cavities as a child, despite rarely having any sweets and a moderately good dental hygiene (okay, it wasn't impeccable, but it was not as horrible as some I've seen, namely my father who never brushed with no cavities at all) but as a teenager/young adult/adult my teeth were mostly fine and my brushing habits are much better nowadays. Within the last two years I've had two molars cracked. One losing a big chunk, the other down the middle and is not salvageable. All on my left upper side.

I had a couple of dentists who told my Mom that my teeth are "soft," and a couple who said there's no such thing. As an adult I also rarely eat candy and eat a fairly balanced diet.

I cracked upper left premolar a year ago eating rye bread. This year I cracked my second to last tooth eating a fake bagel. Like, it wasn't even chewy. I chew with both sides.

I'm otherwise in perfect health. What could cause my incredibly crappy teeth? I'm a violist, but I've never heard any other violinist/violist with such terrible teeth on one side.
posted by atetrachordofthree to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you grind your teeth? I bought myself a root canal that way, for my very first cavity, too. Turns out I grind so much that I had cracked the tooth internally, weakening the sealant in the process. Not fun. Dentist has suggested an $800 night guard. I'm still thinking it over.
posted by charmcityblues at 4:51 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Grinding or clenching your teeth (I do the latter when stressed) can do it.
posted by JoanArkham at 4:58 AM on January 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

It sounds to me like you lost the "good teeth" lottery. Some people just have bad dental genes, and there's really nothing for it. All the dental hygiene in the world can't do much to improve inherently weak teeth, and people with inherently strong ones can get away with hygiene routines that would send your hygienist into hysterics.

Me, I brush my teeth every day, flossing when I need to, but that's about it, and I've never had any cavities, ever. My dad and siblings are the same way. My mom has more cavities than I can count and does a far more rigorous job keeping 'em clean. She just doesn't have good teeth for whatever reason.
posted by valkyryn at 5:15 AM on January 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

Did you ever have any kind of accident? My mom was in a very bad accident several years ago and has been losing teeth in similar fashion to what you describe as an ongoing consequence. The concussion evidently literally rattled her teeth.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:18 AM on January 4, 2012

Any history of acid reflux? Stomach acids can wear away at the protective coating on teeth over time, making them weaker.
posted by samsara at 5:23 AM on January 4, 2012

My back teeth are really bad, and I too was told as a child that I had 'soft' teeth. More recently I have been told that the problem is with grinding and clenching my teeth at night, especially when I'm stressed. This was also causing me to experience jaw pain and headaches - do you every have problems with that? I was given a bite guard to wear at night, and my teeth now feel a lot better, and my dentist said my teeth were looking good at my last check up too (the first check up I've had for ages where the dentist didn't moan about the state of my teeth). So that is something worth considering.
posted by maybeandroid at 5:25 AM on January 4, 2012

Seconding Valkyryn - I too have lost the lottery. I never drink sugary drinks, don't often eat sweets, and brush religiously, but I have what sound like very similar teeth to you in my mid 20s.

I also have a theory that mouthbreathing, due to allergies, has made my mouth drier over the years and therefore less able to keep itself clean. That could be nonsense though.
posted by greenish at 5:27 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thirding teeth-grinding here. I never had any of the "signs" of teeth-grinding--I never had a sore jaw in the mornings, never "felt" tension in my jaw, etc.--but I did, eventually, break a tooth. A night guard changed that and actually straightened out my bite a lot. And...

Dentist has suggested an $800 night guard. I'm still thinking it over.

Um, wow, you need a new dentist. That's bonkers!

Definitely the asker should look into getting a cast made and a soft night guard. (Lots of dentists will recommend a "hard" night guard but most people find them so uncomfortable that they dont use them.) They should under no circumstances cost anything remotely resembling $800!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:23 AM on January 4, 2012

Likely it is just Genetics.

Try chewing gums after each meal if you can't brush your teeth.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 6:32 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

What do you define as a "fairly balanced diet"? Nutritional deficiencies can be displayed in teeth even while the rest of your body might seem pretty healthy. If this really bothers you, consider changing your diet to include more healthy animal products like butter from grassfed cows, shellfish and liver. Check out the work of Weston A. Price - he was a dentist by training, and studied isolated people eating traditional diets and found that they had much, much better teeth and fewer orthodontial problems than Westerners eating processed foods - he chalked it up to better inclusion of important animal products that had vitamin K2, as well as a lack of antinutrients from improperly processed grains.
posted by permiechickie at 6:51 AM on January 4, 2012

Tooth grinding did it for me. All the same symptoms I cracked one of my teeth eating a chicken breast with nothing hard in it at all they were so bad. I lost 2 teeth in the 6 months after my Dad died from stress grinding my teeth so hard. I add to that genetics and my love of diet soda and I'm amazed sometimes I have any teeth left in my head.
posted by wwax at 6:52 AM on January 4, 2012

Maybe you had an injury that didn't seem too bad at the time, but killed teeth, making them way more susceptible to cracking. What's your birth order? Calcium is treated differently in pregnancy; the fetus will take calcium from the mother - with successive pregnancies, there's less calcium, esp. if the Mother doesn't get enough calcium. I'm the 5th kid of 6, and the 7th pregnancy of 9. The teeth get progressively worse.
posted by theora55 at 7:36 AM on January 4, 2012

Things which can cause cracked or disintegrating teeth in adulthood: the above-mentioned tooth grinding and acid reflux. Do you keep your violin on your left side? You could be grinding while playing/practicing and that could add up over time. Other things: poor enamel coverage (genetic). Some people believe that growing up with flouridated water helped our teeth become strong so if you grew up somewhere with well water or other nonflouridated water source that could be a contributing factor. Dry mouth can cause accelerated tooth decay because saliva is the mouth's first line of defense against decay.
posted by juniperesque at 7:38 AM on January 4, 2012

My brother and I had the same diet as young children and followed the same dental hygiene regime yet my brother always had cavities when we were taken to the dentist and I never had any. The same goes for my cousin's two sons. I still don't have any cavities to the point where my dentist has extended the interval between calling me in for check-ups. And I have two baby teeth left (where no permanent teeth formed) and I cracked one of these biting into a nut aged 25. Getting that crack fixed remains the only dental work I ever had other than grinding may come into it but may not be all there is to it.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:18 AM on January 4, 2012

Re mouthguard - it's certainly possible to get them cheaper, but I recall the retail cost of mine was around that before insurance stepped in, maybe a bit more. For what it's worth I never thought I needed it until I got it, and now I basically can't sleep without it because it has made such a difference.
posted by iamabot at 8:24 AM on January 4, 2012

So you could be grinding your teeth. Additionally, you may have a slight misalignment in your teeth causing your bite on the left side to be off, thus, when you grind your teeth or even just close your mouth the pressure isn't distributed correctly on your upper left molars, thus causing the damage on that side.

You should see an orthodontist to see if this is the case (it was for me), consulting should be free when you first go there.
posted by carmel at 8:35 AM on January 4, 2012

Dentist has suggested an $800 night guard. I'm still thinking it over.

FYI, my night guard cost $500. And I felt ripped off.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:40 AM on January 4, 2012

Nthing nighttime clenching. I cracked one of my molars a couple of years ago, and now have a night guard. Mine is called an NTI device, and is hard and only fits over my four front teeth. It was around $350, as I recall.
posted by apricot at 9:12 AM on January 4, 2012

You can get a night guard that molds to your teeth for about 10-30 at a drug store or online. It won't be as perfect as the dentist kind, but it works.

I also grind and clench and broke a molar in a similar way to yours a couple of years ago.
posted by LittleMy at 9:24 AM on January 4, 2012

same here on the good teeth lottery. i brushed and flossed fiendishly growing up and rarely ate sweets but still had cavities all the time. about the same rate in which i do now, and i'm not as strict about brushing and rarely floss now. some people just have weak enamel. that's just kind of it. (and i'll be going in for a couple of crowns in a few weeks…)
posted by violetk at 9:50 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

There may be some information missing here. The teeth in question...have they had fillings before, specifically, silver amalgam fillings? Silver amalgam fillings are notorious for acting as a wedge that can fracture teeth over time (there are factors beyond simply the presence of the fillings here, fyi).

Build a relationship with a dentist that you can trust to give you information about why your mouth is in the condition it is in.

The so-called genetic element to a high caries rate (lots of cavities) is more complicated than the idea of 'soft teeth'. Teeth are hard, enamel specifically; but once the enamel is compromised by being demineralized by the acidity created by the sugar/bacteria relationship, it is up to your saliva, your hygiene, the presence of fluoride ions and other things to come to the rescue. if any of these things are lacking, or your lifestyle is constantly assaulting your enamel (some people suck on cough drops all day for instance) then teeth will develop cavities more readily. Saliva differs from patient to patient, the aggressiveness of the bacteria can vary from patient to patient, the presence of fluoride ions can vary from patient to patient, the force applied by a clenching or grinding habit can vary from patient to patient.

Back to your relationship with your dentist. Try to give as much information as you can about your lifestyle, diet and any symptoms relating to your jaws and mouth. This will help to determine whether you are having breakdown due to a pathological bite, fillings that have reached the end of their lifespan, or diet/genetics related caries rate.

An expensive bite appliance should only be warranted if there is a diagnosis and treatment plan that supports its therapeutic value, but if it is needed then weigh its cost against the cost of a crown or two in its absence.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:56 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing grinding. I wasn't aware I was doing it, but my dentist explained that both my cavities and cracked teeth are related to it. A hard plastic night guard is what they recommend, and the price is outrageous. Plus, when you bite down on hard plastic you can crack a tooth! So my recommendation is unequivocally a soft rubber night guard. I am completely satisfied with one for $27 at Amazon, which I replace once or twice a year. (Additionally, there are night guards which alleviate nighttime snoring by moving the jaw forward slightly. The dentist offered one for over a thousand dollars, but the one from Amazon for $27 does that just fine.)
posted by exphysicist345 at 6:37 PM on January 4, 2012

I do sometimes clench on the left side-- the viola goes on the left side, and I have TMJ or whatever that jaw thing is on the left side. I also do have dry mouth due to breathing through my mouth due to allergies. I don't know if I have acid reflux, but I do know that my mouth feels really sour minutes after eating anything. Also, there was a phase of about 6 years when I was younger when I drank diet coke by the liter.
Thanks for the suggestions. I had never thought about clenching or dry mouth.
posted by atetrachordofthree at 10:30 PM on January 4, 2012

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