The loss of tooth enamel from Bruxism or acid erosion is most often the cause of translucent teeth. Loss of tooth enamel not only causes translucency, but leads to partial or total loss of the teeth from decay.
Bruxism is the dental term for grinding one's teeth and clinching the jaws. Bruxism is more prevalent in children but does occur in adults and can take place day or night. Grinding the teeth leads to erosion of the tooth enamel and chipped or worn teeth. Erosion of the teeth may leave them flat in appearance.
Acid erosion can occur due to a number of causes. Excessive use of highly acidic beverages, sucking on citrus fruit, eating disorders, and acid reflux disease are all known to cause loss of tooth enamel. Other causes include teeth whitening, tomatoes and other highly acid foods and frequent use of chlorinated swimming pools.
Teeth that have sustained loss of enamel from Bruxism or acid erosion take on a translucent look as more of the inner tooth is exposed. The patient may notice the tooth appears thinner to them. They will be able to see through the tooth and notice the darker area of the tooth pulp.
Herbal teas, citrus fruit drinks, citrus carbonated sodas, and tomato juice or tomato based juices are all highly acidic. Sucking on lemon wedges and orange or grapefruit slices applies the high acidic content of these fruits directly to the tooth enamel. During my years in the dental field, I saw one teenage male come through the office who had habitually sucked lemon wedges. The erosion of tooth enamel was so severe that all his anterior teeth had to have crowns seated and many of his posterior teeth had to be filled.
Bulimia is an eating disorder in which the person eats but then regurgitates the food to keep from absorbing the calories or the nutrients in the food. Some patients suffer from both anorexia and bulimia. Regurgitation of food causes highly acidic bile of the stomach responsible for digesting food to enter the mouth. The bile erodes the teeth enamel of patients who habitually regurgitate with bulimia or who suffer from acid reflux disease.
Teeth whitening is done with strong bleaching agents which can erode the tooth enamel. At one time all teeth whitening agents were applied to the teeth by a dentist. Weaker versions of these formulas are now commercially available. Many people will not conform to use of commercial products by package directions and this leads to excessive use of the strong chemicals. The result is loss of tooth enamel, which in turn leads to transparency followed by partial or total loss of teeth.
In rare cases genetics can cause transparency and children who have night Bruxism are unaware of the problem until damage has occurred. However, it is wise to be aware of the causes which we can control and avoid or seek help for those we cannot control.