Non-carious cervical lesions involve loss of hard tissue and, in some instances, restorative material at the cervical third of the crown and subjacent root surface, through processes unrelated to caries. These non-carious processes may include abrasion, corrosion and possibly abfraction, acting alone or in combination. Abfraction is thought to take place when excessive cyclic, non-axial tooth loading leads to cusp flexure and stress concentration in the vulnerable cervical region of teeth. Such stress is then believed to directly or indirectly contribute to the loss of cervical tooth substance. This article critically reviews the literature for and against the concept of abfraction. Although there is theoretical evidence in support of abfraction, predominantly from finite element analysis studies, caution is advised when interpreting results of these studies because of their limitations. In fact, there is only a small amount of experimental evidence for abfraction. Clinical studies have shown associations between abfraction lesions, bruxism and occlusal factors, such as premature contacts and wear facets, but these investigations do not confirm causal relationships. Importantly, abfraction lesions have not been reported in pre-contemporary populations. It is important that oral health professionals understand that abfraction is still a theoretical concept, as it is not backed up by appropriate clinical evidence. It is recommended that destructive, irreversible treatments aimed at treating so-called abfraction lesions, such as occlusal adjustment, be avoided.
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