What Is Tooth Remineralization?
Tooth remineralization refers to the process by which the teeth are strengthened by acquiring key minerals such as calcium and phosphate. It’s a natural process that occurs cyclically throughout every day. Through remineralization, the teeth become better able to resist the effects of bacteria-- creating a reduced risk of tooth decay when the enamel is refortified.
The process of demineralization and remineralization
The outer layer of your teeth is the enamel. It’s one of the hardest substances in your body. However, that doesn’t mean it’s indestructible. Every day, the enamel is attacked by bacteria and their acids. Demineralization can occur when the oral environment has a low pH, and there are insufficient mineral ions.
Each time you eat or drink anything other than water, the bacteria in your mouth feast on the food. They produce acids as a byproduct, and these acids attack the enamel crystal. This is the process of demineralization, and it repeatedly occurs every day.
However, even as demineralization occurs throughout the day, the teeth can also be remineralized. It starts with having a healthy amount of saliva in the mouth, which is necessary to neutralize the acids produced by oral bacteria. Once the acidic byproducts are neutralized, the enamel can reabsorb critical minerals like calcium and phosphate, which strengthen the enamel and reduce the risk of cavities.
Note that remineralization cannot repair enamel that is already lost. Once the enamel is “softened” by acidic byproducts, it is prone to be worn away. For example, brushing your teeth aggressively with a hard-bristled toothbrush can wear away softened enamel. This is why you should wait about half an hour to brush after consuming acidic foods. Once enamel is gone, it cannot be replaced.
Signs of tooth demineralization
It’s not always easy to spot the signs of tooth demineralization. However, being aware of the potential signs can help you catch this problem before it becomes too severe. Watch out for the following red flags:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Whiter spots on the teeth, which can progress to dark brownish spots as decay advances
Make an appointment with your dentist if you notice these issues or any other potential oral health problems.
How to support the tooth remineralization process
There are a number of things you can do to support the tooth remineralization process, including the following:
- Consume calcium and phosphate-rich foods like cheese and other dairy products.
- Drink fluoridated water to remineralize the teeth.
- Consume fiber-rich vegetables and fruits, and chew sugar-free gum to encourage greater saliva production.
- Avoid acidic drinks, including sodas, fruit juices, and sports drinks.
- Brush gently using a soft-bristled toothbrush and minimally abrasive toothpaste.
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