Attrition initially affects the enamel and, if unchecked, may proceed to the underlying dentin. Once past the enamel, attrition quickly destroys the much softer dentin.

The most common cause of attrition is bruxism. Parafunctional habits, such as chewing and clicking the teeth together nervously, place greater amounts of force on opposing teeth and begin to wear the teeth down. Wear usually begins on the incisal (front teeth) or occlusal surface (molar teeth).

Functional habits include chewing and swallowing, which usually put very little force on the opposing teeth.

Characteristic features: Development of a facet (flat surface with circumscribed and a well-defined border). Opposing tooth face will match perfectly in occlusion.