Remineralizing Your Teeth’s Enamel
If you’ve had issues with your teeth that involve weakening, white spots, or numerous cavities, one of the key causes could be demineralized enamel.
In this blog article, Dr. Roxanne Irani explains what demineralization is and how to remineralize your tooth’s enamel.
The enamel is the outer, hard protective coating of the tooth. Demineralization of the enamel is not actually damage to the tooth enamel – but it’s the first sign that such damage may be coming soon, among other problems. Fortunately, demineralization can be stopped and even reversed (the reversal process is called remineralisation) and your teeth can remain protected.
What exactly is demineralization?
A healthy tooth enamel has high mineral content. Just as it sounds, demineralization occurs when the mineral content decreases in your tooth enamel. It is the first step to tooth decay and can be caused by several things that dentists recommend avoiding or keeping in moderation.
Demineralisation has to happen before cavities and other problems occur. The enamel is weakened and becomes porous. Once it is demineralised, bacteria in plaque can penetrate the enamel and invade the tooth’s vulnerable middle layer (called dentin) and the tooth’s sensitive root.
Demineralization also contributes to making the teeth less attractive and makes oral hygiene more difficult. This often leads to brushing being painful or less efficient. Demineralised teeth can also be more sensitive to temperature as well as to sweet and sour things.
While a healthy tooth enamel has a lustrous, white appearance with a smooth and slippery surface, a demineralised enamel appears more dull, irregular and often pitted. As the teeth get rougher, their surface area increases and plaque, tartar, and stains can coat the teeth more readily.
How to avoid demineralization
Overly acidic (sour) or sugary drinks such as sodas are the chief cause of demineralization. So too are wines and alcoholic beverages, and so-called healthy sports drinks. Citrus fruits and vinegars also contribute to the demineralisation of tooth enamel. Black coffee is acidic as well, with a PH of 2.
Brushing too hard, not keeping up with proper oral hygiene habits, and other issues with oral care also contribute to demineralization.
Enamel, unfortunately, does not regenerate by itself. This is because enamel is not a growing organic tissue like skin or bone. However, fluoride, an inorganic chemical compound commonly used in dentistry, is the only solution to the reversal process called remineralization.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral, found in soil and rocks in nature, and extremely beneficial to restore the mineral qualities of tooth enamel.
Fluoride remineralises teeth back to being smooth and strong. The most common way dentists use fluoride is by applying a highly concentrated Fluoride gel or varnish to the teeth after thoroughly cleaning them.
Most commercially available toothpastes contain small amounts of fluoride as do certain therapeutic mouth rinses, usually recommended by the dentist available at pharmacies.
Fluoride has been so helpful for oral health and maintenance that most major cities add small amounts to drinking water, so that its benefits are available to the entire population.
Swallowing small amounts of fluoride such as that contained in drinking water is generally safe.
While more common outside of developed countries, sometimes demineralization can occur because too few minerals are being absorbed in the diet. It’s important to get the proper levels of calcium and phosphates, which come from dairy products and many types of green leafy vegetables.
Demineralisation of the tooth leads to tooth damage, as it weakens the outer protective the enamel, making teeth porous. This then leads to damage such as cavities, chipping and sensitivity of teeth.
Therefore, remineralizing your teeth through proper oral hygiene & exposing your teeth to fluoride is crucial.
Be sure to also watch your diet for things like soft drinks, citrus fruits, wines and vinegars, and to visit the dentist at least once or twice a year to get a deep cleaning and proper treatment for your situation.