Teeth Remineralization - Ways to Prevent Demineralization

Teeth Remineralization - Ways to Prevent Demineralization
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Teeth Remineralization - Ways to Prevent DemineralizationClinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. What is Teeth Remineralization
  2. What Causes Teeth to Lose Minerals
  3. Signs of Teeth Demineralization
  4. Ways to Prevent Demineralization
  5. References

The human body normally maintains an optimum composition of hardened tissues such as teeth and bone through biomineralization. This complex, lifelong process involves laying down and removal of calcium, phosphate and fluoride minerals from the different tissues.

An equilibrium in demineralization and remineralization is essential for keeping the enamel of your tooth strong. Frequent exposure to substances of varying acidity is likely to disrupt this balance leading to erosions and eventually teeth cavities, which are signs of poor oral health.

What is Teeth Remineralization?

Remineralization is a natural process that repairs damaged tooth enamel. The outer visible layer of the tooth, the enamel, is a woven matrix of calcium and phosphate minerals. The composition of the enamel makes it one of the hardest tissues in the body but remains vulnerable to destruction by acidic substances.

When acid-producing bacteria attack your teeth, they remove the previously laid down calcium and phosphate minerals from the enamel matrix causing erosion. Restoration of the lost minerals occurs naturally by remineralization to ensure your teeth do not weaken or develop cavities. Noteworthy, a conducive oral environment must exist for remineralization to take place and avert the complications of tooth demineralization.

What Causes Teeth to Lose Minerals?

Multiple intrinsic and extrinsic factors contribute to the demineralization of teeth. The extent of mineral loss depends on the number of contributors present and their severity.

Intrinsic Causes

Intrinsic causes are factors from within your body that cause erosion of the enamel. Individuals with bulimia nervosa, dental rumination and acid reflux that comes from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) develop dental caries secondary to demineralization more than the general population.

When you have GERD, for example, acidic stomach contents flow back to the esophagus and the mouth where they promote dissolution of the enamel. Conditions such as obesity and diabetes predispose people to the development of GERD, which is detrimental to your dental health.

Bulimia nervosa is another disorder that leads to rapid tooth demineralization, especially when vomiting is induced frequently.

Extrinsic Causes

Extrinsic factors such as diet and medications are the primary causes of teeth mineral loss. Up to 79 percent of adults have tooth decay following regular consumption of fruit or soft drinks.

Bacteria in the oral cavity ferments the sugars from fruit and soft drinks leading to the production of acids, which fuel the decay process. The type of drink, the amount of it and the frequency of consumption determines the severity of demineralization.

Medications such as anti-asthma drugs will also predispose you to teeth demineralization because these drugs decrease saliva secretion and pH levels. A change in saliva properties reduces its ability to buffer acids in the mouth thereby leading to increased loss of minerals of the teeth.

Saliva is an essential part of the remineralization process, and saliva prevents dry mouth and contains phosphate and calcium.

Signs of Teeth Demineralization

Mineral loss from the enamel may progress steadily if you take no action. Some key indicators of demineralization to watch for are:

  • Patchy white areas on the teeth: When your teeth begin to demineralize, the loss of calcium and phosphate is marked by whitish spots on the enamel. These may resolve spontaneously or progress to the next stage depending on the nature of the oral environment.
  • Darker spots: Lack of intervention in the initial stage of demineralization weakens the enamel further with the transformation of the white spots to dark brown areas. Tiny holes and caries may also begin developing in your teeth
  • Temperature sensitivity and pain: As enamel erosion progresses, inner layers of the teeth become exposed. Since these layers are much softer than the enamel, the destruction quickly reaches blood vessels and nerves. Taking cold or hot beverages soon becomes an insurmountable challenge. With dental pulp compromise, swelling ensues exerting pressure on the nerves causing a toothache.
  • Swollen gums: Tooth decay will finally result in a gum infection if left untreated. Pus will form at the base of the tooth and cause other symptoms such as fever, lymph node swelling around the neck, and extreme pain.

Ways to Prevent Demineralization

Regular Oral Hygiene
To maintain good oral hygiene, develop the habit of brushing twice daily. Deposits of food particles between the teeth enhance bacterial overgrowth leading to the formation of plaques. Tooth decay and cavity formation then ensue. Regular oral hygiene that includes brushing and flossing prevents compaction of food particles in the buccal cavity, reduces bacterial growth, and curbs mineral loss. You should brush for about 2 minutes.
Use Fluoride Toothpaste
Generally, brushing twice a day gives decent oral health. However, for an optimal dental outcome, consider using fluoride toothpaste. Fluorine interacts with enamel to form a compound that is more resistant to acid dissolution thereby precluding demineralization. Additionally, it catalyzes the remineralization process giving you stronger and healthier teeth.
Drink More Water

Adequate intake of water has double benefits for your dental health. First, it promotes saliva production, which is essential in buffering both the exogenous and endogenous acids.

Drinking more water ensures that you secrete saliva continuously, and consequently wash off any debris and bacteria that may accumulate to produce acids. Besides, saliva supplies calcium and phosphate minerals that your body needs to remineralize any damaged tooth enamel.

Saliva also encourages the formation of a complex known as precipitin that gets incorporated into dental plaques making them more soluble in acids.

If you drink less water, you are likely to be dehydrated. As a result, your salivary glands will produce less saliva, which cannot clear the food debris or bacteria in the oral cavity.[3] The outcome is poor remineralization and increased demineralization. Secondly, fluorinated water boosts your body's supply of fluorine for enhanced teeth remineralization as mentioned above.

Less Acidic Foods and Drinks

Whether from foods or other substances, acids are detrimental to your teeth. They corrode the enamel and expose the sensitive inner layers of the teeth resulting in toothache. Minimizing the quantity of acidic foods and drinks in your diet or avoiding them will therefore help you to keep healthier teeth.

Oranges and grapefruits are some of the highly acidic fruits that you need to avoid in order to slow down tooth demineralization process.

Reduce Starchy Foods, Dairy Products, and Other Sugary Drinks

Regular consumption of foods rich in starch such as bread, rice, and potatoes increases the incidence of dental caries. These foods have high sugar content and will be easily fermented by mouth bacteria to form lactic acid that erodes the enamel.

While dairy products contain calcium necessary for the mineralization, they also have a high lactose content that is likely to increase enamel damage.

References

Demineralization-remineralization dynamics in teeth and bone. (September 19, 2016). International Journal of Nanomedicine. Date fetched: August 2, 2021.

The relationship between consumption of beverages and tooth wear among adults in the United States. (April 28, 2015). Journal of Public Health Dentistry. Date fetched: August 1, 2021.

Saliva and dental caries. (October 1999). Dental Clinics of North America. Date fetched: August 1, 2021.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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