Tooth remineralization has become a popular topic in the Information Age.
People want to know:
Can I reverse my cavities naturally?
The simple answer is yes. But simple answers don’t necessarily suffice. Once you learn that you can remineralize your teeth, lot’s of other questions begin to pop up.
Some of these include:
- How does tooth remineralization work?
- Does remineralization regrow teeth?
- How can you prevent tooth decay?
- What causes tooth demineralization?
- How can I reverse tooth decay?
- Why does my dentist deny that cavities can heal?
- Will this work if I have “soft enamel”?
We will discuss all of these and more. Cavity healing and prevention has become a hotly debated topic. But the consensus is growing because the evidence is clear. In fact, you might get angry when you discover how long ago the truth was uncovered.
But for now, let’s get straight to the point:Creative Commons
What is Tooth Remineralization?
Tooth remineralization is the natural process by which your body replenishes tooth enamel. It occurs everyday, the rate depending mostly on diet.
Your body naturally rebuilds the surface of your teeth on a daily basis. However, remineralization forms a dynamic process with demineralization, which also occurs on a daily basis. Whether or not you develop cavities depends on the balance of the two.
Evidence of this process has been available since the 1930s, but it is only recently becoming common knowledge.
Proof of Tooth Remineralization—Historical and Modern
Yes, the 1930s.
It’s been almost a full century and your local dentist might not know.
Nutrition and Disease was originally published by Dr. Edward Mellanby in 1934. In it, Sir Mellanby details the findings of both he and his wife. Dr. May Mellanby and her husband were medical researchers that are most famous for their work on the effect of diet on tooth and bone development.
Sir Edward discovered vitamin D and its connection to rickets. More important here, he and his wife found that a diet high in calcifying agents (especially Vitamin D, Calcium, and Phosphorus) can help repair damage to teeth from attrition or cavities.
Just 5 years later, Dr. Weston A. Price published the first edition of Nutritional and Physical Degeneration. Dr. Price is one of the most respected dentists ever, also called “the Charles Darwin of Nutrition”.
Price travelled the world for nearly a decade looking for clues to excellent dental health. He found that modern diets were connected to cavities, crooked teeth, and other dental illness. Meanwhile, indigenous diets lead to straight, healthy teeth.
Yes, he found that improper diet causes tooth malocclusion (misalignment) and decay while a balanced one causes healthy teeth and minimal decay.
The information may have been available, but it failed to circulate. It took until this century before the information was really expanded upon.
It took another team of doctors to find the next big step forward: Ralph R. Steinman, DDS and John Leonora, PhD of Loma Linda University. Published in 2004, Dentinal Fluid Transport outlines how our teeth rebuild themselves from the inside out.
The research of Dr. Price and the Drs. Mellanby is more widely known, but DFT provides a framework to understand how hormones, vitamins, and minerals truly affect our bodies’ ability to reverse cavities.
Please note: brushing and flossing hasn’t been mentioned once up to this point.
Modern dentists are starting to see the light:
- How to Stop Cavities by Dr Judene Benoit
- Dr. Axe on Reversing Cavities
- Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel
- Dr. Mark Burhenne of Ask the Dentist
When high-paid professionals give you info that hurts their business model, you should listen. We have no conspiracy theories about why this information didn’t get out. But we still respect those devoted to the truth today.
We believe that most dentists simply haven’t come across the information yet. It isn’t taught in dental schools, after all. And even if they have heard of remineralization, they may have decades of operating under false notions.
Some may fear a loss of their own value. Others may simply be skeptics.
Regardless, you should be convinced by now. But you should also be hopeful.
Now, it’s time to begin:
Understanding Tooth Mineralization
As mentioned before, tooth mineralization is a dynamic process.
But what does this really mean?
It may come as a surprise to you, but teeth are porous. The outer surface is covered in tiny, innumerable holes. This makes it easy for minerals and other substances to enter the enamel of your teeth. Coffee and smoke stain teeth in this way.
This characteristic is also what allows remineralization to occur.
Calcium, phosphate, and other teeth-rebuilding elements contained in saliva attach directly to and harden enamel. Similarly, acids generated in the mouth can penetrate teeth and create cavities.
To maximize tooth remineralization, increase the presence of calcifying minerals in your saliva while limiting acidity.
But that is only part of the story:
Remember, remineralization is also supported from the inside.
A tooth has three layers. The middle layer, called dentin, gets a boost of nutrients when your body senses tooth decay or damage. It keeps some for itself and passes the rest onto the enamel. This is the single most important part of remineralization.
Those tiny holes mentioned earlier are called dentinal tubules. Cells at the pulp, dentin junction called odontoblasts pump lymph material through those tubules. This “dentinal fluid” travels all the way to the tooth surface, forcing food debris, bacteria, and acids out of the pores. The process increases during eating and cleans and protects teeth.
However, improper diet interrupts this process. When the lymph fluid isn’t pumping through your teeth, the pressure reverses. This causes your teeth to slowly suck food, microorganisms, and acids into your enamel. From there, they wreak havoc.
This is the true cause of tooth decay. The evidence seems to imply that you could hold off tooth decay indefinitely with the right diet—but no one wants to be the first to say it.
Evidence also suggests that if decay penetrates all the way down to the dentin, remineralization may not be enough to cure a cavity. The more severe the damage, the lower your chances.
The best approach is to use this process to prevent instead of heal.
Remineralization is a consistent process in a healthy mouth. It’s that healthy mouth part that people have a hard time with. And that’s because they have a hard time eating a healthy diet.
Making conscious eating decisions is hard for most people. One thing that makes it easier though, is reviewing the reasons why you should.
Full Benefits of Remineralizing Your Own Teeth
The main benefit of reversing tooth decay is easy to see.
No more cavities!
Everyone wants that. However, the benefits don’t stop there.
Tooth remineralization can also:
- Reduce tooth sensitivity
- Eliminate pain caused by decay
- Reclaim function of damaged teeth
- Lower lifetime dental costs
Plus, oral health has a significant impact on overall health. In this way, taking the steps to remineralize teeth can have a far-reaching impact on the quality of your life.
How to Reverse Cavities with Remineralization
Using remineralization to both heal and prevent cavities is simple.
After all, your body does it naturally. But just because something is simple doesn’t mean that it is easy. That is especially true when the steps might involve changing some of your habits.
You will have to take steps to maximize mineralization while limiting demineralization as much as possible. And that’s an everyday thing.
If you are serious about remineralization, you can heal cavities in 3 steps:
- Optimize Your Diet.
- Practice Good Oral Hygiene.
- Use Remineralization Promoters.
These steps are listed in order of importance, though best results will be achieved with all three.
Genetics play less of a role in tooth decay than was thought in decades past, but it does still factor in. All bodies are different and our mouths are no exception. Environmental factors also play a part.
Your remineralization routine may look different from the next person’s, but the steps—and their order—will always remain the same.
1. Diet for Tooth Remineralization
This is the first and most essential step.
For the lucky ones, the right diet can prevent cavities altogether. Food is really the key to improving any dimension of health.
Most health goals come with a list of “do’s” and “don’t’s”.
Here’s ours for the tooth remineralization diet:
Do: Eat High-Fat, Whole Foods
“Eat whole foods” is now a cliché. Things become clichés because they are worth repeating.
So, eat whole foods. But the other half of that heading might have surprised you. Eat healthy fats isn’t a cliché yet, but it soon will be—and for good reason.
Our ancestors did not live on the highly processed diet we eat today. Beyond the potentially toxic additives, they did not consume nearly as many simple carbohydrates as we do now. Even the agricultural revolution is relatively recent in terms of how long Home Sapiens (these bodies) have been living and reproducing on the planet.
Put plainly, our bodies aren’t built to handle the food most of us eat today.
We pay for it with our health. Replace the high-carb, low-nutrient foods of the modern world for more traditionally processed foods your body can handle.
The Paleo Diet is a great starting point for those looking to get rid of cavities. There are a few guilty pleasures to give up, but you get to keep plenty as well. And more importantly, it will help you keep your teeth.
Do: Supplement Vitamin D
Vitamin D is crucial to the absorption of calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals your teeth need to remineralize.
We recommend supplementation because so many people are vitamin D deficient. Not getting enough sun, avoiding dairy, or eating a strict vegan diet all increase your chances of vitamin D deficiency.
However, it is entirely possible to get enough vitamin D from your diet. Eating 6-8 oz. of salmon or mackerel everyday would do it for most people. Tuna, sardines, fortified milk, and eggs can also help. Then, the sun is also a legitimate source of vitamin D.
Our preference would be to tell you to eat salmon (see previous Do) and spend time in the sun everyday. But we understand that not everyone is going to do that, or be able to.
If that’s you, a vitamin D supplement may help you promote tooth remineralization. Don’t go too high, as vitamin D toxicity is possible at a high level (some vitamin D supplements go over 10,000 IU).
Do: Get the Right Minerals
Enamel is considered the hardest substance in the body.
Just like bone, teeth rely on minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium for strength. Make sure they are present in your diet.
There are many whole food sources for these minerals so supplementation won’t be as important for most people as vitamin D. But it should still be on the table. Calcium is the fifth most abundant element in the body and is absolutely crucial to tooth remineralization.
Another dental legend, Melvin Page, probably did the most to prove this. Over the course of thousands of blood tests, he found that no cavities occur when blood calcium and phosphorus are balanced in a 5 to 2 ratio.
However, there was one more stipulation for cavities to stay away completely:
Some things had to be removed from the diet.
Don’t: Consume Processed Sugar
Page, Price, Steinman, Leonora, and others not named here…
Most of the pioneers of the truth behind dental decay found the same thing:
Consuming white sugar, white flour, and other refined carbohydrates promotes cavity growth—even in the presence of vitamin D and the other minerals your body needs for dental health.
It was Steinman and Leonora that discovered the mechanism behind this:
A diet high in sugar disrupts the secretion of an important hormone produced by the parotid glands (the largest of the salivary glands). This hormone is what stimulates the odontoblasts to pump dentinal fluid.
Without it, lymph stops being delivered to the tooth surface and instead debris is pulled in.
In this way, processed carbs are easily the single biggest cause of cavities.
Don’t: Consume High Phytic Acid Foods
Aside from sugar, there is at least one other substance you should try to avoid.
Phytic acid (aka phytate) is often called an “anti-nutrient”.
That’s because it snatches up nutrients in the digestive system and prevents them from being digested. If they aren’t digested, they don’t make it into the bloodstream. If nutrients don’t make it into the bloodstream, they don’t make it to other tissues in the body. This includes your teeth.
High phytic acid foods include oatmeal, whole grains, nuts, beans, and legumes.
Phytic acid prevents remineralization by stripping your body of calcium and other calcifying agents it needs to rebuild teeth.
We’ll spare you the chemistry, but take a look at some more proof:
The Influence of a Cereal-Free Diet Rich in Vitamin D and Calcium on Cavities in Children
Still today, a series of studies published by the Drs. Mellanby provide some of the greatest insight into the effect of diet on cavity development.
They fed groups of children 8 different diets over the course of 25-33 weeks.
In the first study (1924), they took three groups of the children and fed them three separate diets.
The first diet had large amounts of oatmeal. The other two diets had less cereal. But the researchers also added different amounts of cod liver oil (a source of vitamins A & D) to the second and third diets.
Two years later, they doubled the number of children and performed the same study.
They got similar results both times:
The high oatmeal, no supplement diet yielded much more cavity growth than the other two diets. Additionally, the diets with higher amounts of vitamin A & D yielded less cavity growth and more enamel hardening than the more modestly supplemented diets.
Then in 1928, the researchers took a single group of children and replaced cod-liver with radiostol—a vitamin D2 supplement. At first, vitamin A and D were thought to be one entity but Sir Mellanby isolated vitamin D. This diet yielded the best results to date.
Finally, in the latest study published in 1932, all cereals (rice, tapioca, etc.) were eliminated from the diet and a mix of cod liver oil and radiostol was used for supplementation. Again, the results eclipsed all others.
Here are highlights from their data:
|Diet 4||Diet 5||Diet 6||Diet 7||Diet 8|
|Number of Children||24||24||23||21||22|
|Average Age of Children||9.0||8.8||8.7||5.4||5.4|
|Number of Weeks on Diet||25||28||28||28||26|
|Daily Oatmeal Consumption (in grams)||51||0||0||0||0|
|Daily Cod-liver Oil Consumption (in grams)||0||10.5||21||0||8.6|
|Daily Radiostol Consumption (in grams)||0||0||0||2.5||0.4|
|Average Number of Teeth Per Child Showing New or Spread of Old Cavities||5.8||3.0||1.8||1.0||0.37|
|Average of Number Teeth Per Child in Which Cavities Showed Hardening||<0.1||1.2||2.0||3.9||4.7|
You may notice that the average age of the final two groups is significantly lower than the first 3. This actually makes the results more encouraging, as ages 5-6 can be a time of rapid cavity growth.
If you’d like to read more, here is the entire article published by May Mellanby & C. Lee Pattison in the British Medical Journal. You will find a detailed breakdown of eat diet, data from the first three groups, and more information on the results.
Lady Mellanby hadn’t identified the exact culprit in these cereals. But today, the implications of these study are obvious:
Phytic acid increases cavity growth, while vitamin D supplementation is likely to lower it.
It would be hard to imagine more compelling evidence that diet is an absolute factor in both cavity development and cavity reversal.
Top 5 Foods for Tooth Remineralization
There are only a few foods that really move the needle for dental health.
But there are a few all-star choices worth mentioning.
Wild-Caught Fatty Fish
Salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and other fatty fishes are high in vitamin D. The high-fat, high-protein content will also keep you energized and help you kick your carb habit.
It’s important that you choose wild-caught fish. Farm-raised fish has greatly reduced nutritional value. Plus, the additives to their diet become additives in yours.
Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens are excellent sources of calcium and other minerals our bodies need.
You can also throw other cruciferous vegetables into the mix, such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, and cauliflower. Beyond just teeth remineralization, this group of vegetables is among the healthiest food groups you can eat.
Cheese contains a family of milk proteins called casein that provides multiple benefits for oral health, especially when eaten before other foods.
First, it prevents plaque-causing bacteria from attaching to the tooth surface. Secondly, it helps to recruit calcium phosphates to the tooth surface. These are the exact kind of molecules needed to repair cavities.
Beef and other red meat is another good source of hard minerals and vitamin D, as long as it is grass-fed or wild (ie. deer, elk, bison).
The advantage of jerky is that it requires lots of chewing. Remember that calcium and phosphorous remineralize teeth from saliva. Taking your time to gnaw on some jerky is a great way to boost hard mineral content in your spit for an extended period.
We saved this one for last because it will sound foreign to many. However, in terms of effectiveness, it should probably be first. It’s delicious and easy to cook with too.
It’s pretty self-explanatory: consume food made from bones and get a good boost of all the essential bone-and-tooth-making nutrients. If you’re really serious about adopting a remineralization diet, bone broth should probably become a mainstay.
2. Oral Hygiene & Tooth Remineralization
By now, you must understand that oral hygiene is less important than once thought.
But that doesn’t mean you can throw it out completely. The bacteria in your mouth consume your food right along with you. (They actually help you.) And when it passes, it comes out as acid.
That’s right, the acids that break down your teeth come from bacteria poop.
These acids become especially harmful with prolonged exposure. Brushing breaks up these acid-secreting bacterial colonies and removes them from your teeth. Flossing does the same for the most hard-to-reach places between teeth.
This prevents both the bacteria and their acids from being absorbed into teeth in the case that DFT slows down or stops altogether.
The benefit of good dental hygiene is reduced demineralization. Slowing down the loss of calcium and other hard materials from your teeth is important, but brushing and flossing will do nothing to remineralize teeth alone.
3. Boosting Remineralization
Body chemistry is a complex and wonderful thing.
The more we learn about the truths behind health issues, the more effective our solutions become. And now that the real causes of tooth decay are becoming known, at home remineralization remedies and commercial remineralization products are becoming more popular,
Never mistake them as substitutes! If your diet is wrong, no “cavity-reversing serum” is going to prevent your teeth from absorbing the harmful substances in your mouth—and demineralizing because of it.
Still, here are some things you can try:
These solutions will help raise the amount of remineralization minerals in your mouth.
CPP-ACP is the acronym for casein phosphopeptides and amorphous calcium phosphate together that have formed a molecular complex. It comes from casein, that milk protein we mentioned earlier.
Sciencey, we know.
Essentially, CPP-ACP contains both the calcium and phosphate your teeth need to remineralize. What’s more, CPP-ACP holds these minerals in forms that your teeth can absorb easily. Even the plaque colonies in your mouth absorb it easily, calcifying and rendering them inert.
CPP-ACP has been trademarked as Recaldent™ when added to dental products. Basically, you have to look from products with Recaldent™ in them. Or you would, if you weren’t reading an Authority Dental article.
Recaldent™ can be found in Trident Xtra Care Gum and GC’s MI Paste (aka tooth mousse). There are also other products available internationally.
In case you’re a skeptic, here are some well-cited studies:
- Effect of CPP-ACP agent on demineralization and remineralization of dentin
- Effect of CPP-ACP vs. CPP-ACP and fluoride treatment together
- Effect of chewing gum containing CPP-ACP on a daily basis
CPP-ACP is easily the most well-proven remineralization agent on the market. But it certainly isn’t the only one.
Tooth powder is another potential remineralization promoter.
In this case, there are both commercial products and DIY solutions. However, we want to caution against the use of tooth powders for remineralization without proven ingredients.
Many of the commercial products on the market boast tooth whitening and tooth remineralization. We are skeptical of any product that does so. Most whitening agents are designed to remove material from your teeth. Remineralization is about adding it.
There are some high quality remineralizing tooth powders on the market, such as this one, this one, and this one. Just careful when shopping outside of our recommendations. Skip the marketing claims and look at the ingredients if you really want to know what effects a “remineralization” product may have.
(Our Guide to DIY Toothpaste gives detailed explanations of just about any toothpaste ingredient you can think of as well as examples of toothpaste recipes)
Toothpaste is easier to market.
This means you need to be more careful.
You might be tempted to trust the bigger brands, and buy something like Colgate’s Enamel Health. But if you read the ingredients you’ll find that there is no calcium in their formula. It relies on fluoride, which doesn’t do much to get rid of cavities on its own. We won’t even talk about the slew of harmful ingredients it also contains.
Instead, make your own toothpaste or trust a product like Uncle Harry’s wildly popular Peppermint Toothpaste.
If you’re an extreme skeptic, you might want to include your dentist in your search.
Remineralization Products Available Through Dentists
Consider yourself lucky if you find a dentist who knows the truth about tooth remineralization.
Dental professionals are still the ones who get first access to the latest dental technologies. This is true for remineralization products as well.
If your dentist doesn’t know about tooth remineralization, this may be a great way to get them interested.
Show them a product like this one. Or maybe this one, which claims to vastly outperform CPP-ACP plus fluoride in both cavity fighting and enamel hardening. It utilizes Tricalcium phosphate (TCP) instead of CPP-ACP.
This is cutting edge research, with new solutions surfacing more and more often.
Maximizing Tooth Remineralization
If you’re serious about fighting cavities and remineralizing your teeth:
(And we assume you are because you’re already 3,000+ words in.)
There are a few things you should do to help your body fight cavities.
Don’t dabble. Take control of your dental health permanently by creating habits that promote remineralization. Don’t look for a quick-fix. Instead, have resolve and look for sustainable solutions that you can adapt to your lifestyle.
Start early. The same habits that promote remineralization also promote the healthy formation of teeth, including primary and permanent teeth. In fact, dental health starts in the womb and calcium is crucial for pregnant mothers.
Drink water. Staying hydrated is essential to the production of saliva, your number one defense against plaque and the delivery mechanism of remineralization. Plus, it is crucial to digestion and other essential bodily processes.
Live healthy. Get sleep, make sure to exercise, and reduce your stress. All three of these things have indirect impacts on dental health by helping regulate hormones and keep various systems running efficiently.
Cheat strategically. If you decide that you just can’t give up soda or other foods that cripple remineralization, try your best to finish them quickly. For instance, drink your whole soda with a meal instead of sipping it throughout the day.
Include your dentist. Beyond helping you gain access to products you couldn’t otherwise get, including your dentist can also help you track your progress and document your results. Plus, they may learn something.
After reading this article through, you’re in the top 1% of all people on the planet.
Don’t keep the knowledge for yourself. Share it with the world! But more importantly: make sure you actually put all that you’ve learned into practice.
There is no magical bullet that will get rid of your cavities. You must put the right things into your body and avoid putting the wrong things in as much as possible.
From there, you can take further steps to bolster your body’s natural healing abilities.
Make it a routine and increase the longevity of all of your teeth.