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What Causes Wear Facets (and How Do You Treat Them)?

9 min read
by Dylan Hao |

Keeping your teeth healthy becomes more important as you age and realize how much you value your smile. If you didn’t take care of your teeth well when you were younger, you’ll have to work extra hard to maintain your enamel and gums and avoid tooth decay.

But time also brings another danger to your smile: wear facets. Officially called “non-carious lesions,” wear facets happen when your teeth rub together in various ways through ongoing use.

The enamel breaks down, turning your thick, healthy surfaces into flatter, shiny teeth fronts. These lesions can look different depending on the type and severity of wear, ranging from barely noticeable to unignorably visible. 

So what are wear facets? Are they dangerous? How can you treat them?

We’ll answer all your burning questions on these tooth-damaging lesions in this blog.

What is Tooth Wear, and How Does it Cause a Wear Facet?

Just as a rock is slowly worn away over time by elements like rain and ocean waves, tooth wear is a part of life. This natural process happens when you use your teeth to chew, grind, and make other oral movements.

Whether you recognize it or not, your teeth rub together as you make certain movements. If you have a condition like bruxism (teeth grinding and jaw clenching), this connection happens unconsciously and can even go on for hours while you sleep.

The ongoing rubbing that occurs over years — or sometimes within months with bruxism — creates wear facets. Let’s look at the four leading causes of these tooth lesions:


Possibly the most common type of wear facets is attrition, the result of excessive tooth contact from chewing and grinding. Gradually over time or quickly with bruxism, this repetitive action damages the tooth structure.

The tooth-on-tooth contact is part of normal aging. But if you’re younger or your dental problems have come on rapidly, something else is happening behind the scenes, and a visit to the dentist is necessary. Otherwise, attrition will expose the dentin under the tooth enamel, making your teeth highly sensitive and increasing the likelihood of tooth decay.

Chances are, if you are showing abnormal signs of dental attrition, you may have bruxism. Many people with this condition don’t realize they have it until they start showing symptoms like:

  • Morning headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) discomfort

Bruxism can occur by itself, or it may be linked to other health issues such as sleep apnea or TMJ disorders (TMDs).

Dental attrition can also be attributed to misaligned teeth. This bite misalignment causes the teeth to rub together more frequently than is natural, creating occlusal wear. Damage to the tooth enamel leads to bacterial deposits, cavities, and tooth pain.

Signs of attrition include:

  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Decay
  • Tooth shape changes
  • Sore gums
  • Discolored teeth
  • Damage to fillings and other dental restorations

You’ll also notice mandibular (jaw) issues as the effects extend from the teeth and gums to your TMJ and cause pain when you move the jaw joint.

The good news is that bruxism-related attrition and wear facets can be prevented with the regular use of a custom-made night guard, a type of oral splint like those we offer at JS Dental Lab. This mouth appliance reduces the contact between the upper and lower teeth and prevents the grinding that causes harm to the enamel. 

Misalignments are usually treated with orthodontics, such as braces or Invisalign, to correct the bite. Until then, the crooked teeth touch the opposing teeth consistently, wearing away at the surface. Once the tooth alignment is restored, the probability of wear facets reduces significantly.

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Dental erosion is the effect of eating too many acidic foods, acid reflux from conditions like GERD, or having poor dental hygiene.

When the acid attacks the enamel, it washes away the hard outer layer of the tooth surface. The loss of minerals leaves behind the weaker, softer underlayers.

This happens through a chemical process. The mouth’s high acidity begins dissolving the minerals in the tooth, producing wear patterns across the masticatory (chewing) surfaces. 

Without care, this acid attack can spread to the rest of the mouth, impacting the anterior teeth as well. Once the erosion reaches the lower teeth structures, restorations like fillings and crowns may be necessary to fix the issue.

Erosion is usually caused by:

  • Acidic foods
  • Acidic drinks
  • Dehydration (or other reasons for low saliva production)
  • Acid reflux
  • Repetitive vomiting
  • Acidic medications like aspirin and Vitamin C 

However, this is one of the more preventative causes of wear facets. Stay hydrated, flush the acid off your teeth with plenty of water, brush using fluoride toothpaste, and avoid ingesting acids as much as possible.


While erosion and attrition happen to the tooth’s surface, abrasion is a type of wear facet that shows up by the gum line. This damage is caused by external friction that places too much stress on the top of the tooth.

Tooth abrasion comes from an outside source, typically abrasive materials like toothpaste or hard-bristled toothbrushes.

Think about the damage that would happen if you regularly rubbed sandpaper across your teeth. This friction would obviously break down even the hardest tissue on the teeth, and the results would be visible wear facets. 

The same effect happens with aggressive brushing, abrasive toothpastes like charcoal, and hard bristles. It can also stem from overusing toothpicks, biting your nails, or chewing on hard objects.

This rough treatment is most damaging to the canines and molars, placing the lion’s share of the stress at the top of the tooth near the gum line.

Preventing abrasion starts with using soft-bristled toothbrushes and non-abrasive toothpaste. Next, be sure to use the proper technique for brushing: use circular strokes and light pressure in short, tooth-wide movements. Brush the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces.

Wear facets caused by abrasion can be corrected with dental treatment options such as fillings, veneers, and crowns.


The last type of wear facet cause is dental abfraction. This damage occurs when the teeth’s chewing surfaces have too much stress, causing them to flex and bend. The hard tissues near the gum line, enamel, and dentin break down with this movement, turning into deep, V-shaped wedges. 

Abfraction typically stems from bruxism and overcrowded teeth. Symptoms usually first appear as visible food stuck in the wedge or a little gap you can feel with your tongue. If this isn’t treated, it can cause wear facets, enamel loss, tooth decay, and tooth loss.

Another factor to consider with abfraction is that it’s often co-current with abrasion or erosion. The symptoms are similar, and you may not know why the damage happened.

However, your dentist can guide you into potential treatment options such as: 

  • Monitoring your teeth for any changes
  • Installing fillings
  • Using a night guard

What Are the Dangers and Risk Factors of Wear Facets?

Wear facets can start small and are easily ignorable. But left untreated, they can progress and cause damage to the enamel and gums.

Eventually, these lesions show up as sensitive teeth, difficulty chewing or moving the jaw, and pain in the TMJ area. Gum disease begins as minor, but if it isn’t addressed, it will become dangerous and irreversible periodontal disease.

Over time, complications from wear facets can cause your jaw to shift, resulting in changes in the shape and appearance of your face. 

Part of the reason you may be susceptible to wear facets lies in your habits. If you chew pen caps, bite your nails, obsessively eat ice cubes, or chew tobacco, you’re speeding up the chance of teeth lesions. However, certain risk factors make you predisposed to developing wear facets.

Risk Factors for Wear Facets

A solid dental hygiene routine is your first layer of protection against tooth damage. Regular brushing with fluoride-based toothpaste twice a day and daily flossing will clean up much of the acid and bacteria that cause decay and wear. This routine also encourages saliva production, which dilutes and clears away acids and strengthens the enamel with minerals.

If your salivary production is compromised, it puts you at a greater risk of wear facets. This can happen due to:

  • Natural aging
  • Medical treatments like radiotherapy and chemotherapy
  • Systemic diseases
  • Xerostomia (chronic dry mouth)

It’s also one of the first symptoms of dehydration, so staying hydrated is crucial if you want to protect your teeth.

Risk factors also include a medical history of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), bruxism, and eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. Frequent use of alcohol or consumption of acidic drinks will boost your chances of developing wear facets.

Taking antidepressants or sleeping medications may predispose you to bruxism and the subsequent damaged teeth. If you are on these medications, talk to your doctor about other options to control your medical conditions or invest in a custom-fit night guard from JS Dental Lab to prevent teeth, jaw, and gum damage.

Prevention and Treatment of Wear Facets

Wear facets are best avoided, but don't worry if it’s too late. Once developed, they can be treated!

Early onset of these lesions usually doesn’t require much more than a few new lifestyle habits and a little extra dental TLC to keep them from worsening. 

Preventing Wear Facet Damage

Close-up of a woman folding a piece of gum into her mouth.

These simple tips could be all you need to get your teeth back on the healthy dental track and avoid unsightly wear facets:

  • Wear a high-quality night guard designed to fit all the nooks and crannies of your teeth and prevent clenching and grinding.
  • Engage in daily stress management techniques to soothe stress on your body and reduce behaviors that damage the teeth. 
  • Adjust your eating habits to avoid acidic, sugary, hard, and chewy foods and drinks.
  • Get better, more restful sleep (which is also a natural side effect of the previous three tips).
  • Avoid those oral fixation habits that cause you to chew your nails or bite on hard items.
  • Quit or limit tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use to reduce the strain on your teeth and minimize adverse reactions that cause bruxism.

Each of these tips is beneficial to your dental health. But even more importantly, they’ll improve your overall wellness, too. 

When you start to notice the difference in how you feel mentally and physically, it will become easier to adjust to these lifestyle changes and make them permanent choices. 

But if they don’t fix the dental damage, you may need to visit a dentist to find out your treatment options.

Fixing the Damage From Wear Facets

Whether your lesions are causing discomfort, serious tooth complications, or you’re unhappy with the visible look, damage from wear facets is frequently treated with cosmetic dentistry.

Talk to your dentist about the treatment options that will fit your medical and dental history. They might suggest:


They may recommend composite restorations, often called fillings. These are tooth-colored materials placed in the crack or opening of the enamel caused by wear facets.

Composite is also used to open the bite when the tooth is worn out, fixing the look of your smile and adjusting your teeth to a proper alignment.

Inlay or Onlay

You might qualify for a dental inlay or onlay if the damage is beyond composite restoration but not far enough gone to need a crown. Inlays and onlays are used to fill in the areas of a tooth damaged by wear, decay, or injury.

They’re good options if your biting surfaces need to be salvaged. Additionally, they can be placed over molars and premolars, which is helpful because these occlusal teeth are frequently used.


Graphic showing how veneers fit over teeth.

Dental veneers are a treatment option to fix the tooth's surface when erosion or other wear has damaged it. Veneers protect the front layer of the tooth from more harm and improve the look of your smile.


For severe damage from wear facets, dental crowns are the last resort before extraction. These tooth-shaped caps restore teeth that have been broken or are substantially weak, eroded, or decayed. Crowns look like natural teeth but are made from resin, porcelain, or metal.


Each tooth in your mouth plays a role in your overall dental health, from your incisors to your bicuspids and beyond. Protecting them goes beyond daily dental hygiene practices, though. You need to recognize the signs of wear and tear due to outside and inside forces, and know how to avoid wear facets.

Most of the damage from these lesions can be prevented with simple changes in your daily routine, like using a night guard from JS Dental Lab. 

Contact us today to see how our high-quality professional products can help you avoid the visible and invisible loss of tooth structure caused by the four types of wear and tear on your teeth.

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