Tooth wear is the result of three processes: abrasion (wear produced by interaction between teeth and other materials), attrition (wear through tooth-tooth contact) and erosion (dissolution of hard tissue by acidic substances). A further process (abfraction) might potentiate wear by abrasion and/or erosion. Both clinical and experimental observations show that individual wear mechanisms rarely act alone but interact with each other. The most important interaction is the potentiation of abrasion by erosive damage to the dental hard tissues. This interaction seems to be the major factor in occlusal and cervical wear. The available evidence seems insufficient to establish whether abfraction is an important contributor to tooth wear in vivo. Saliva can modulate erosive/abrasive tooth wear through formation of pellicle and by remineralisation but cannot prevent it.