If you’ve had issues with your teeth that involve weakening, white spots, or numerous cavities, one of the key causes could be demineralized enamel. To understand what demineralization is and how to remineralize in order to address the problem, take a look at this guide. You’ll understand that demineralization is not actually damage to tooth enamel – but it is the first sign that such damage may be coming soon, among other problems. Fortunately, demineralization can be stopped, and your teeth can remain protected.
What Is Demineralization?
Just as it sounds, demineralization occurs when the mineral content decreases in your tooth enamel. It is the first step to tooth decay and can be caused by several things that dentists recommend avoiding or moderating. Enamel is such a hard and protective substance for your teeth precisely because of its high mineral content, and generally speaking, demineralization has to happen before cavities and other problems occur. Once plaque pierces enamel weakened by demineralization, it more easily infects a tooth’s vulnerable interior, made of dentin and the tooth’s sensitive root. By avoiding demineralization, you can drastically reduce the chance of this happening.
Demineralization also contributes to making the teeth less attractive and oral hygiene more difficult, and it often leads to brushing being painful or less efficient. One key feature of tooth enamel is its smooth, slippery surface, which also fades away with demineralization. As the teeth get rougher, their surface area increases and plaque, tartar, and staining elements coat the teeth more readily.
How to Avoid Demineralization
For the average person in developed countries, overly acidic or sugary drinks such as sodas are the chief cause of demineralization. Brushing too hard, not keeping up with proper oral hygiene habits, and other issues with oral care will also contribute. An overly acidic oral cavity is a common cause to watch for, especially in places like the North America where the average diet is acidic. Sometimes other dietary issues can also cause demineralization, though this is less of a concern in Western societies (more on this later).
The unfortunate truth is that enamel cannot be restored or regenerated. This is because enamel is not a growing organic tissue like skin or bone, and there are no other sources of enamel in the human body that could be used for grafting. However, fluoride, an inorganic chemical compound common in dentistry, is the chief solution, used for a reversal process called remineralization.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral, and as one might expect, it is very useful to restore the mineral qualities of tooth enamel, remineralizing teeth back to being smooth and strong. The most common way dentists use fluoride is by applying a foaming gel to the teeth after thoroughly cleaning them. You can also purchase such gels for you to use at home or toothpaste with a special extra-fluoride formula.
Fluoride has been so helpful for oral health and maintenance that some cities add small amounts to drinking water. It is generally safe in small quantities, and little is needed for dental fluoride remineralization gel treatments. That said, do not start using fluoride gels or an extra-fluoride toothpaste without consulting your dentist first. The additional minerals can be wasteful or even detrimental in some patients who were not facing demineralization after all, or who have a rare sensitivity to fluoride.
While more common outside of developed countries, sometimes demineralization can occur because too few minerals are being absorbed in the diet. It’s important to get the proper levels of calcium and phosphates, which come from dairy products and many types of green leafy vegetables. Fluoride can also be consumed naturally by drinking mineral water or certain types of tea, eating seafood or wheat, and a number of other things. If you want one simple solution, consider chewing sugarless gum. Saliva is the ideal self-protection for your tooth enamel, and the gum will encourage your mouth to produce more.
Take note that packing more of these food and drink items into your diet, thereby putting more minerals into your body, will not compensate for demineralization. The human body can only absorb the ideal amount of minerals every day or less, and forcing more into you will mostly have no effect, except in extreme cases where it can cause risky health issues such as kidney stones when combined with dehydration.
Demineralization might be good for things like water, but it’s never something that you want for your teeth. While demineralization isn’t damaging in itself, it is the weakening of the enamel that preludes damage such as cavities. Therefore, remineralizing your teeth through proper oral hygiene is crucial. Be sure to also watch your diet for things like soft drinks, and to visit the dentist at least once or twice a year to get a deep cleaning and proper treatment for your situation.
It can’t be stressed enough: Visit your dentist regularly and you’ll have a major head start against the progress of any demineralization.