Acid demineralization of teeth causes occlusal erosion and attrition, and shallow and wedge-shaped cervical lesions putatively involving abfraction. From 250 patients with tooth wear, 122 with cervical lesions were identified. From epoxy resin replicas of their dentitions, associations of occlusal attrition or erosion or no wear with cervical lesions were recorded at 24 tooth sites (total 2928 sites). Criteria used to discriminate occlusal attrition from erosion, and shallow from grooved, wedge-shaped or restored cervical lesions were delineated by scanning electron microscopy. A 96 per cent association was found between occlusa and cervical pathology. shallow cervical lesions were more commonly found in association with occlusal erosion. Wedge-shaped lesions were found equally commonly in association with occlusal erosion, as with attrition. Grooved and restored cervical lesions were uncommon. Differences were appreciated in the associations within incisor, canine, premolar and molar tooth sites which related more to the site-specificity of dental erosion than to attrition from occlusal forces. Non-carious lesions on teeth then have multifactorial aetiology and pathogenesis in which erosion and salivary protection play central roles. Dentists should primarily consider erosion in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of tooth wear.