Abfraction is the loss of tooth structure where the tooth and gum come together. The damage is wedge-shaped or V-shaped and is unrelated to cavities, bacteria, or infection.

Continue reading to learn how to recognize abfraction, why you need to see a dentist, and when it requires treatment.

You might first become aware of abfraction when you get food stuck in the wedge or when you flash a big smile. You might even be able to feel it with your tongue.

Abfraction is usually painless, but tooth sensitivity can become a problem, especially where heat and cold are concerned.

You may never develop other signs or symptoms, but if the damage continues, it could lead to:

  • worn and shiny facets on the tooth, known as translucency
  • chipping of the tooth surface
  • loss of enamel or exposed dentin

Over time, loss of enamel can make the tooth vulnerable to bacteria and tooth decay. It can affect the structural integrity of the tooth, leading to loosening of the tooth or tooth loss.

It would be easy to confuse abfraction with other dental problems, so it’s best to see your dentist for diagnosis.

Abfraction is caused by long-term stress on the teeth. This can happen in a variety of ways, such as:

  • bruxing, also known as teeth grinding
  • misalignment of the teeth, also called malocclusion
  • mineral loss due to acidic or abrasive factors

Sometimes there are multiple contributing factors. Your dentist may not be able to tell you exactly why it happened. Also, abfraction can occur along with other dental problems like abrasion and erosion.

The incidence of abfraction increases with age, rising from 3 percent to 17 percent between ages 20 and 70.

Abfraction doesn’t always require treatment, but it’s important to see your dentist to be sure. Even if you don’t need immediate treatment, monitoring may help you head off bigger problems.

The diagnosis can usually be made on clinical examination. Tell your dentist about any health conditions or habits that can affect the teeth. Some examples of this are:

Your doctor will recommend treatment based on the severity of your symptoms and whether you have co-existing dental problems. You might also want to consider how it affects your smile and ability to keep your teeth clean.

The damage can’t be reversed, but you can ease tooth sensitivity, improve appearance, and help prevent future damage. Some treatment options are:

  • Fillings. This can be helpful if it’s getting hard to keep your teeth clean or if you have tooth sensitivity due to exposed nerve endings. Your dentist can choose a color to match your teeth, so it’s also a good aesthetic option.
  • Mouthguard. If you clench or grind your teeth at night, your dentist can fit you with a mouthguard to prevent further damage to your teeth.
  • Toothpaste. Toothpaste won’t cure abfraction, but certain products can help cut down on tooth sensitivity and abrasion.
  • Orthodontics. Realigning your bite can help prevent future damage, which can be especially helpful for younger people.

The cost of repairing abfraction will vary significantly depending on how many teeth are involved, what treatments you choose, and whether or not you have dental insurance.

Be sure to discuss all your options in advance. Here are some important questions to ask your dentist:

  • What’s the goal of this treatment?
  • What are the risks?
  • How long can I expect it to last?
  • What can happen if I don’t have this treatment?
  • How much will it cost? Will my insurance cover it?
  • What kind of follow-up treatment will I need?

Ask for recommendations on oral care products such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental rinses. Ask your dental hygienist to demonstrate proper brushing technique to help you avoid further damage.

Tooth grinding or biting with an unstable bite can affect the gums as well as the tooth. It’s not unusual to have receding gums with abfraction.

Over time, as the gums continue to pull back, root surfaces can become exposed. This combination can cause extreme tooth sensitivity and tooth pain. Without treatment, it can lead to loosening of the tooth or tooth loss.

Abfraction, abrasion, and erosion all involve some tooth damage, but at different locations on the tooth. While they have varying causes, they can interact and create a bigger problem. It’s possible to have abfraction, abrasion, and erosion at the same time.


Abfraction is a wedge-shaped flaw on the tooth at the point it meets the gumline.

It’s caused by friction and pressure on the tooth and gums, which causes the neck of the tooth to start breaking off.


Abrasion is likely to be found on the teeth closest to your cheeks, also known as the buccal side. Unlike the V-shaped appearance of abfraction, the damage caused by abrasion is flat.

Abrasion is caused by friction from foreign objects, such as pencils, fingernails, or mouth piercings. Using a hard toothbrush, abrasive tooth products, and improper brushing technique can also lead to abrasion.


Erosion is the general wearing away of tooth enamel. Teeth may have a more rounded appearance, with hint of transparency or discoloration. As erosion progresses, you can start to see dents and chips in the teeth.

Unlike abfraction and abrasion, erosion is more of a chemical process, happening on the surface and subsurface of the teeth. It’s caused by high acid levels in the saliva. This may be due to acidic foods or drinks, dry mouth, or health conditions that cause frequent vomiting.

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Tooth wear due to abrasion, abfraction, and erosion.

Abfraction is a type of tooth damage near the gumline. It doesn’t have only one cause, but generally misalignment, grinding of the teeth, or erosion play a part. Treatment won’t reverse the damage, but it can improve appearance, tooth sensitivity, and make it easier to keep your teeth clean.

While it doesn’t necessarily require treatment, abfraction can lead to serious problems with your teeth and gums. If you think you might have abfraction, it’s important to have your dentist make the diagnosis and monitor your oral health.