Tooth enamel — the hard outer covering of your teeth that protects them against decay — is composed of a few different minerals. Tooth enamel has a complex structure and primarily includes calcium and phosphate formed together in strong hydroxyapatite crystals, though enamel is also made of a variety of trace minerals like strontium, magnesium, lead, and fluoride.
Given the intricate structure of this protective covering, it might be alarming to learn that these various minerals can be lost through a process known as demineralization. This term refers to the loss of minerals from the body. When these are lost in tooth enamel, the teeth can become less attractive and more difficult to maintain. While healthy teeth are smooth, demineralized enamel can lead to teeth that are rougher — and this increased surface area is perfect for the development of plaque and tartar. Over time, these can seriously impact your oral health and lead to further complications.
Fortunately, demineralization can generally be stopped and even reversed. The opposite process, in which minerals are reintroduced to the body, is known as remineralization. But how can you remineralize your teeth?
If you’re interested in learning more about maintaining the look and health of your smile, you’ve come to the right place. This article will discuss how you can stop and reverse the harmful effects of demineralization, as well as explore various treatment options for common health issues related to it.
How to Remineralize, Strengthen Teeth, and Repair Tooth Enamel
Have your teeth lost their smooth texture? Have you begun noticing white spots on your teeth — an early sign of tooth decay? Worse, are there visible cavities in your teeth? These are clear signs of demineralization, and these red flags signal that it’s time to begin taking action.
There are many approaches to strengthen, repair, and remineralize your teeth, and using the below strategies can help you on your journey to better oral health.
Brush Teeth Your Teeth Properly
Bacteria introduced to your mouth through food or drink can result in demineralization. Acids from plaque can speed up this process and result in tooth decay. An effective way to remove bacteria and avoid these effects is to regularly brush your teeth. This means brushing twice a day to remove any food or plaque before problems can arise.
Most types of toothpaste also include fluoride, and brushing can re-introduce this mineral to your body and increase the growth and size of hydroxyapatite crystals — a necessary building block for tooth enamel. In fact, depending on the condition of your teeth, your dentist may prescribe highly potent fluoride toothpaste for this very purpose.
As noted in the previous strategy, fluoride can promote the development and maintenance of tooth enamel. However, fluoride-enriched toothpastes aren’t your only option when it comes to getting this necessary mineral for remineralization. You have several options for getting more fluoride.
First, consider drinking more tap water. Water from your faucet, as well as beverages made with tap water (such as black tea or coffee, though it’s important to be mindful of staining), can help. While there is some controversy about the fluoridation of water, it is a safe and effective process when federal regulations are followed.
Secondly, there are plenty of fluoride supplements. This includes fluoride toothpastes, rinses, foams, or gels. Some supplements must be professionally applied during a dental visit, including silver diamine fluoride, prophylaxis pastes, and varnishes. While these can be pricier alternatives, they are highly effective, and financing options make them broadly accessible.
Eat Calcium, Vitamins, and Minerals
Consuming more calcium, vitamins, and minerals can go a long way toward stopping and reversing demineralization. Many foods are natural sources of fluoride, such as spinach, grapes, and some types of seafood. Adding these to your diet can improve your fluoride intake.
You can also invest in key supplements to promote remineralization, including:
- Vitamin D3;
- Vitamin K2.
Getting a sufficient amount of each of these can help improve the strength of teeth enamel and your overall oral health.
Limit Sugary or Acidic Foods
Sugar, fruits or fruit juices, dairy, and starchy foods will result in increased bacteria and, in turn, increased acidity in your mouth. Acids wear away at your protective enamel and can result in demineralization. Small changes, such as opting for sugarless gums or candies instead of traditional junk food, is a step in the right direction.
Further, some plant-derived foods contain high levels of phytic acid, which is known to prevent mineral absorption, though it can have health benefits. Some major culprits include almonds, rice bran, and wheat bran, for example. This is another aspect of your diet to be aware of if demineralization is a major concern. Discuss your concerns with a doctor before making any major dietary changes.
While it’s not generally necessary to avoid consumption of these foods entirely, it can slow demineralization if you at least restrict how often you do so. Being wise about your dietary choices, and prioritizing the vitamins and minerals outlined above, can result in a healthier smile.
Consider Dental Sealants
Dental sealants are plastic coatings that can be applied by a dentist or dental hygienist in order to prevent tooth decay. For people with demineralization issues, sealants can provide much-needed protection. They are a relatively inexpensive and easy option that is worth exploring in cases involving this problem.
Decrease Dry Mouth
Your saliva plays an important role in neutralizing acids in your mouth produced by harmful bacteria. Failing to address the underlying issues that cause dry mouth can result in demineralization. There are many potential causes of dry mouth, and it’s vital to discuss your symptoms with your doctor in order to avoid health complications.
Demineralization and Remineralization of Teeth in Toddlers
As a parent, it can be disheartening to hear that your child is suffering from cavities or tooth decay resulting from demineralization. Indeed, this problem can arise at a young age. Excess juice consumption or even breastfeeding can exacerbate a child’s teeth enamel problems. Further, some children may simply be born with weak enamel.
There are a variety of tips you can follow to address this issue:
- Teach your child good personal hygiene habits from a young age. Model proper brushing techniques to them and ensure they receive regular dental care.
- Provide your child with healthy foods that contain all the nutrients needed for remineralization. Replace sugary foods with healthier foods and sugar-free substitutes.
- Have your child rinse their mouth immediately after meals and teach them to adopt this habit. This will help keep their mouth clean and reduce harmful bacteria.
Demineralization From Braces
Braces require strong oral hygiene practices to prevent demineralization, particularly near orthodontic brackets. If you notice the symptoms of demineralization while using braces, discuss your findings with your orthodontist as soon as possible. They will be able to help mitigate the issue and provide advice to help you avoid further demineralization. In the meantime, you can use many of the strategies outlined above.
Remember that different types of braces have different pros and cons, and this is a key consideration for individuals with concerns regarding demineralization. Note that some dental alignment solutions may be more appropriate for people with histories of enamel problems. In this regard, there are significant advantages to Invisalign clear aligners, which can be removed during cleaning.
Signs of Tooth Remineralization
If you’ve tried the strategies discussed in this article, how can you be sure that your efforts are paying off? All you need to do is look for the signs of tooth remineralization:
- Improved appearance;
- The surface of your teeth have become smooth;
- Decreased sensitivity in your teeth;
- White spots on your teeth have either disappeared or are reduced in size.
Once you’ve noticed these signs, you can be assured that you are on the path toward a more attractive and healthier smile. If your efforts are not resulting in improvements, or you want to explore other methods of enhancing your smile, it may be wise to schedule a consultation with an orthodontist to explore additional options.