Brittle Teeth: Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Clinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
Last Modified:

Table of Contents

  1. Signs & Diagnosis
  2. Causes
  3. Treatment Options
  4. Prevention
  5. Having Brittle Teeth?
  6. References

Brushing your teeth is one of the most effective ways to ensure oral hygiene. However, sometimes teeth are fragile enough that they hurt when chewing food – or even during brushing. This is one of the signs of brittle teeth.

Having brittle teeth is a condition characterized by weak enamel, which chips or breaks easily. Enamel is the hardest and strongest substances in the human body, stronger and more durable than bones.

When enamel breaks down, it automatically makes teeth weaker. When dental professionals encounter weak teeth, they know an underlying issue is the cause. If you start to experience multiple chipped or deteriorating teeth, you should see a dentist for a check-up and treatment.

Signs and Diagnosis of Fragile Teeth

Brittle teeth sometimes have no symptoms. But when symptoms occur, they range from mild chipping to severe pain.

Brittle teeth may have the following signs:

  • Sensitivity to heat or cold

  • Swollen gums around the brittle teeth

  • Pain when biting or chewing food

  • Erratic pain that is on and off

A dentist may perform a physical examination or ask about your dental history to diagnose the condition.

Causes of Brittle Teeth

Although tooth enamel is naturally tough, it is prone to breakage. Some dental habits and health conditions can weaken the enamel, causing your teeth to break.

If your teeth are fragile or break easily, it may stem from one or more of the following reasons:

  • Genetic predisposition

  • Periodontitis

  • Teeth-grinding or clinching

  • Poor dental care

  • Poor dietary choices

  • Eating disorders

  • Aging teeth

  • Dentinogenesis Imperfecta

You can prevent some of these reasons, although you can’t do anything about your genetics or about getting older.

A combination of genetic factors can affect your enamel. For instance, you may have naturally soft enamel. Genetic predisposition may also determine the structure and characteristics of the sub enamel (dentin). Your teeth may be prone to fracture or damage.

Periodontitis is an infection or inflammation of the gums caused by bacteria, usually because of improper dental hygiene. In the early stages, periodontal disease does not cause tissue damage. But left untreated, the condition deteriorates into severe periodontitis.

This condition can cause deep gaps in your gum line from tissue retraction from your teeth. In severe cases, periodontitis makes your teeth fragile and prone to falling out.

The habitual act of grinding your teeth during sleep or while chewing food creates undesired friction on the teeth. Not surprisingly, repeated grinding and clenching weakens the enamel. In turn, the enamel wears away, exposing your teeth to fracture.

Your teeth require minerals and vitamins to maintain healthy enamel. Any deficiencies in essential nutrients makes your teeth weak and prone to breakage. For instance, you need an abundance of Vitamin A for strong, healthy enamel. Low levels of Vitamin A cause brittle teeth.

Vitamin D deficiencies can result in inadequate absorption of essential minerals such as calcium and phosphorus, both of which promote strengthened enamel. Nutritional deficiencies come from a poor diet, eating disorders and sometimes certain medications that interfere with the absorption of nutrients.

The consistent food choices you make either promote enamel strength or weaken it. If you take an acidic and sugar-rich diet, it will cause brittle teeth. A diet that contains an overabundance of highly acidic fruits such as grapes and carbonated soft drinks can deteriorate your enamel.

Improper dental care predisposes your teeth to decay, lack of pulp, and cavities. Eventually, the teeth grow weak and brittle. Similarly, inadequate fluoride predisposes your teeth to erosion. The solution is to brush your teeth regularly with fluoride toothpaste, which fights off bacteria and germs and promotes the maintenance of strong teeth.

A long-term excess of vomiting is highly detrimental to teeth, regardless of cause. Vomit contains high contents of stomach acid. Three reasons why someone might endure long periods of vomiting are:

Older teeth are prone to brittle enamel because of prolonged contact with acidic foods. Moreover, the aging process along causes the nerves running through the teeth to shrink. As a result, there is little fluid flowing into the enamel, which causes dryness.

Dentinogenesis Imperfecta is a genetic condition caused by the inadequate formation of the dentin, leading to the abnormal formation of the teeth' middle layer. It causes issues such as discolored teeth or weakened teeth.

Treatment Options

Tooth enamel has no regenerative cells and cannot re-grow once it breaks down. However, dentists have several treatment options to strengthen brittle teeth. Be sure to visit a dental clinic for advice and treatment.

You should expect one or more of three treatment options:

  • Fluoride therapy

  • Crowns

  • Veneers

  • Dental sealants

Fluoride mineral prevents cavity and tooth decay. A dentist may recommend fluoride supplements and gels to revitalize and strengthen weak teeth. They exist in the form of tablets, oral drops, and chewing gums.

They are customized porcelains cemented over the teeth to promote dental restoration. Crowns cover the whole tooth, while veneers cover only the frontal part of the enamel. Besides improving cosmetic appeal, crowns and veneers form a thick cover that prevents breakage.

Chewing surfaces have deep grooves that are not easy to clean. Thus, they are vulnerable to tooth decay or cavities. Dentists may put plastic coatings on the chewing surface to prevent erosion. Sealants also form strong protection against chipping or breakage.

How to Prevent Brittle Teeth

The easiest and most effective way to safeguard your teeth is to maintain regular dental hygiene. Ensure you brush your teeth and floss regularly for strong, healthy teeth.

In addition, observe the following measures:

  1. Visit a dentist twice a year for check-ups and cleanings. A dentist may spot oral infections and recommend the best treatment method.

  2. Reduce your intake of sugary and acidic foods, which are a source of bacteria that may damage your teeth.

  3. Eat foods rich in calcium such as fruits, green leafy vegetables, mushrooms and eggs.

  4. Brush your tongue regularly to keep it clean and have fresh breath. Like regular teeth-brushing and flossing, keeping your tongue clean minimizes the amount of bacteria in your mouth.

  5. Drink copious amounts of water. This is a tip that works for overall health, but in terms of dental health, hydration promotes the strength of enamel.

Having Brittle Teeth?

A weak, fragile enamel is a hindrance to regular teeth functioning and oral health. A combination of healthy habits such as regular brushing, avoiding sugary foods, and eating calcium-rich foods can enhance your dental health. However, if you have persistent brittle teeth, seek medical help from dental healthcare professional.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.