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Get to the root cause of cavities - Dr Anirban Chatterjee

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More than 70% of school children in India are suffering from dental caries (tooth decay) and more than 90% of the adult population is affected by periodontal disease, according to government estimates.   As we all know, oral health is extremely important. It has an impact not only on our ability to eat and speak but also on our overall well-being. Even though enamel, or the outermost covering of our teeth is the hardest material in the human body, it is highly vulnerable to the damaging effects of tooth decay, which when not controlled can lead to full blown decayed enamel and cavities.

It's important to step back and see what’s happening in our mouths on a submicron level to understand what we as adults and more importantly as parents can do for our children to prevent and/or control tooth decay. Contrary to what most people know there is a lot of good bacteria in our mouths that helps create a positive pH balance, and that our saliva itself helps keep tooth decay in check. The problem arises when the increased intake of sugary foods creates acid in our mouth leading to demineralization which as the word suggests is a loss of mineral ions out of the hydroxyapatite crystals in enamel. However, mineral ions lost during demineralization can be replaced by the body’s automatic defense mechanism – remineralization.

The amount of demineralization and remineralization depends on many variables, including the availability of calcium and phosphate as well as the pH of saliva. To maintain good dental health, it is essential that the balance between loss and gain of minerals or the tooth nourishment cycle is optimally maintained. Nearly a decade ago, the scientific community started investigating the benefits of an additional ingredient, called arginine in toothpastes   to help achieve this equilibrium. 

Arginine is an amino acid that has been found to play a crucial role in teeth remineralization process. When combined with calcium and phosphate ions, it forms a protective layer over the teeth, preventing the demineralization of the enamel. This layer also aids in the tooth nourishment process, making the teeth stronger and more resistant to decay. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Dentistry found that arginine-containing toothpaste reduced the number of cavities in children by 50% compared to regular fluoride toothpaste.    Another study published in the same journal found that arginine can help repair enamel defects and improve overall oral health.

[7] NIH: The combined antimicrobial effect of arginine and fluoride combined toothpaste

[8] NIH: Comparison of clinical efficacy on dentin hypersensitivity

One of the major benefits of using arginine for tooth nourishment is that it is a natural ingredient. Unlike other products that contain chemicals and artificial substances, arginine is found in nature and is safe to use. It is also synergistic with fluoride, thus aiding remineralization and making the teeth more resistant to acid attack.

In addition to its benefits for tooth nourishment, arginine along with fluoride has also been found to have antibacterial properties. It can help eliminate harmful bacteria in the mouth, preventing the formation of plaque and reducing the risk of gum disease.

Arginine containing toothpastes have emerged as one of the standards of daily oral care which can attack the root cause of cavities and provide dental nourishment to ensure strong and healthy teeth for years to come.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.