Many people consider teeth inanimate objects once they have erupted. What may be surprising is that dentition is alive and has the capability of healing even after it has come to some damage. This requires treatment from both the inside and outside the tooth.
The process is called tooth remineralization. It is like natural repair. See what products and lifestyle changes can help promote teeth strengthening.
Why is remineralizing teeth needed?
Remineralizing teeth is the opposite of demineralization. The latter means loss of minerals from the surface of the dental hard tissues. Food remnants left behind in your mouth after you eat are consumed by bacteria. A by-product of this process are strong, stable acids. If this is allowed to continue, cavities may form.
Remineralization can counteract this and takes place at or near the normal pH. Recent advances show that during this process minerals and ions are replaced in the hydroxyapatite crystal lattice of the enamel (the outer layer of teeth). Calcium hydroxide and phosphorus provided by saliva are redeposited into the decalcified enamel.
One of the earliest signs that remineralization is needed are white spots on the teeth. They suggest enamel of that region has been under bacterial acid attacks for months. During the development of caries, the balance between demineralization and remineralization is skewed towards the former. If you notice chalky, white areas on your dentition, act quickly.
Best methods to remineralize teeth
There are many different ways to remineralize our teeth. Focusing on one general fix is not ideal. A more multifactorial understanding and approach is needed to allow remineralization to occur more readily than demineralization.
Cut down on sugar
It has been found that modern diets are incredibly sugar-filled. The average person consumes at least 20 teaspoons of sugar a day. This means we are routinely fueling bacteria to cause demineralization.
Consider some sugar substitute ingredients. Xylitol is preferred, as oral bacteria will metabolize this like sugar but cannot produce acids that hurt your teeth. Products that contain xylitol can be helpful in neutralizing acid-producing bacteria between meals.
Minimize dairy products
While dairy products are a great source of calcium, they also contain lactose. That is a type of sugar that may increase the acidity in your mouth. This could lead to demineralization quickly.
Pick and choose the right fruits and vegetables
Some fruits and vegetables, especially acidic ones like lemon, oranges, and tomato will lower the pH in your mouth. Of course, it would be unwise to cut them out completely, as they contain many vitamins that your body needs. Research shows that not consuming enough may lead to tooth loss.
Try to stick to whole fruits and veggies when possible. Dried fruits can stick in the teeth and many contain added sugar. Drink plenty of water as well.
Incorporate the right minerals into your diet
Through a proper diet, we can provide our saliva with the necessary minerals to help promote remineralization. This also gives the living inside structures of our teeth the ability to help repair themselves. Tooth remineralization requires high amounts of:
- Vitamin D,
- Vitamin K, and
- hygienic fluoride.
One of the major roles Vitamin D plays is to help supply teeth with Calcium. Vitamin K is an important nutrient needed to help transport Calcium in the body, including to the teeth.
Don’t snack too often
Consider how frequently you eat and snack. The pH in the mouth drops after meals and can stay in that acid state for 20-30 minutes. Frequent consumption throughout the day leads to a more acidic mouth, and therefore, a more favorable environment for demineralization.
Eating constantly throughout the day does not allow adequate time for the remineralization process to occur. Less snacking means more remineralization.
Use fluoride products
When it comes to tooth protection, nothing helps more than fluoride. It is not only an antimicrobial agent, but it can also help bring minerals back to decalcified enamel lesions. This happens in our saliva in combination with calcium and phosphate. Fluoride helps make teeth more resistant to future bacterial acid attacks as well.
This mineral is most readily accessible from tap water. It may also be found in most kinds of toothpaste. In some cases, health providers recommend switching to a prescription toothpaste or mouthwash. Such dental products have a higher concentration of fluoride and work faster.
Address oral conditions
Diseases like dry mouth and periodontitis may inhibit saliva production. This makes it difficult for even high amounts of minerals to reach your teeth. Spit also does a great job watering down acids from your diet and bacterial digestion.
Visit your dentist if you feel your mouth is too dry or if your gums are inflamed. Sometimes simple changes such as an altered diet, a different toothpaste, drinking more fluoridated water, or a quick procedure can solve the problem.
Conduct proper oral hygiene
Remove plaque twice daily with a toothbrush and floss.
If you are using a mouthwash product that does not contain fluoride, make sure to use it before brushing your teeth. Using it after brushing can wash away a majority of the fluoride you placed on your teeth from your toothpaste. It is much more effective if the mineral can rest on your teeth longer.
What’s more, if you eat anything acidic such as citrus fruits, it’s better to wait about 30 minutes before brushing your teeth. The same goes for foods and drinks that easily stain your teeth such as wine and coffee.
What are the signs of tooth remineralization?
Most of the time, we are unable to detect if our teeth are being remineralized or not. In some cases, spots on the teeth permanently colored more white are areas where remineralization and recalcification took place. This is because fluoride helps to create a more opaque appearance.
In general, though, remineralization takes place without you even knowing it.
How long does it take to remineralize teeth?
Remineralization takes place over time. It requires constant maintenance. After a tooth has become demineralized to form a lesion, protecting the tooth through remineralization can take many months or even years.
What ingredients remineralize teeth?
In general, the specific ingredients required to remineralize teeth are calcium, phosphate, and fluoride. Calcium and phosphate are the mineral ions that are shed during an acid attack from cariogenic bacteria. They can rebond themselves to enamel naturally. The addition of fluoride creates fluorapatite crystals, a stronger, more resilient tooth structure.
Can teeth remineralize with fillings?
Bioactive glass ionomer fillings have been shown to promote additional remineralization, especially in the dentin (inner layer beyond the enamel), once the restoration is placed.
Otherwise, after a filling is performed, maintaining proper oral hygiene will continue to promote remineralization on the remaining tooth structure.
Can the remineralization process fix your teeth?
True enamel decay cannot be reversed. Once a lesion has penetrated the enamel structure and reaches the dentin, it becomes decay. If this happens, only restorative dentistry can fix the decay. The decayed area of the tooth must be removed and protected.
If a demineralization lesion is solely confined within the enamel, this is known as an incipient lesion and can be remineralized.