At first glance, “tooth remineralization” sounds like some sort of constructive oral surgery—but no worries—it’s just another term to describe strengthening your teeth against decay and cavities through increasing the minerals in your teeth. Tooth and enamel remineralization is a relatively simple process. Did you know that by maintaining the right pH balance in your saliva, avoiding certain foods, and choosing a decay-fighting fluoride toothpaste, you’re already working toward tooth and enamel remineralization?
How To Remineralize Your Teeth
Before discussing methods for remineralizing teeth, it’s essential to understand the naturally occurring tooth remineralization process and demineralization. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the enamel layers on your teeth add and lose minerals daily. Demineralization happens when acids found in bacteria and sugar attack your enamel. In contrast, remineralization happens when minerals like fluoride, calcium, and phosphate reunite with your enamel through consuming food and water. That means that when there is an imbalance between these two processes—say, when there is too much demineralization and not enough mineralization, tooth decay can occur.
Remember, this is a natural process that happens to everyone; according to a study in the National Institute of Health, teeth are naturally at risk of demineralization simply due to their location and exposure. Luckily though, they’ve developed a resistance to localized demineralization that’s stronger than bone because of this exposure.
Your mouth is one big ecosystem; it’s just a matter of making sure everything is in balance. And one of the most critical factors in that balance—and thus remineralization—is your saliva.
While fluoride toothpaste can aid in remineralizing your teeth, your saliva plays a crucial role in preventing demineralization, as it delivers fluoride to your tooth’s surface. According to the American Dental Association, saliva also naturally adds minerals like calcium and phosphate to your teeth to replace what’s been stripped away during demineralization. It’s also cleansing and antibacterial. Bet you never thought you’d be so thankful for saliva!
But the presence or amount of saliva in your mouth isn’t the only important part of remineralization—the proper acid/alkaline balance in your saliva (also known as pH level) is also a critical player in this process. According to an article published in Loma Linda University Health, the ideal pH in your mouth should be 5.6 or above. However, this level decreases when you eat or drink foods and beverages other than water, causing minerals to leave the teeth and leave them at risk of tooth decay. But when your saliva pH returns to its neutral state, it promotes tooth remineralization.
It’s important to note that some autoimmune diseases, salivary conditions, and medications can affect your salivary flow or cause dry mouth, so it is essential to discuss your medical history when visiting your dentist.
While this all might sound a bit scientific and complicated, it’s all-natural. And as mentioned above, your teeth are continually going through these processes, so you want to focus on creating an environment where minerals stay in your teeth. And it’s pretty easy!
At this point, you may be wondering: how do I maintain my saliva’s pH balance so my teeth can remineralize? How can I prevent demineralization? Your levels of saliva, diet, and oral hygiene habits all play a vital role in the remineralization of your teeth. Here are some specific ways to maintain a well-balanced mouth that’s ready for mineralization.
- Maintain a proper saliva pH: Because saliva plays such a vital role in maintaining your mouth’s pH, it’s important to make sure you’re producing saliva. One common technique is to swish water in your mouth after eating and drinking. Chewing sugar-free gum and sucking on sugar-free candies can also promote saliva production.
- Use fluoride toothpaste: Fluoride is one of the most common and effective methods in preventing demineralization and can be found in most pharmacies.
- Floss daily: Flossing helps eliminate hard-to-reach food in your mouth, which can be a cause of bacteria that weakens your enamel.
- Add probiotics to your diet: Probiotics, or “good bacteria” like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, are typically found in dairy products like yogurt and can also be taken as supplements. Probiotics have been shown to reduce bacteria in your mouth, thus aiding in cavity prevention and other oral diseases, as well as preventing the demineralization of your enamel.
- Avoid foods high in sugar, carbohydrates, and acidic foods: Sugary foods and drinks (both diet and regular) can compromise your enamel health, typically by leaving cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth, which can attack your enamel.
- Talk to your dentist: Your dentist or dental hygienist will be able to identify cavities or spots in your mouth that lack enamel strength, and if caught early, they may recommend or prescribe an effective fluoride treatment.
Suppose you want to add a remineralization product to your oral habits. In that case, there are plenty of OTC (over-the-counter) products that are proven to help replenish minerals. The best place to start? A fluoride toothpaste, which can be found at most drug stores and pharmacies. Fluoride is a crucial ingredient in remineralization because, once fluoride is in your enamel, it combines with calcium and phosphate to create a defense system that prevents cavities.
Further, according to a 2019 study in the National Institute of Health, calcium phosphate (ACP), which can be ingested as a milk protein or found as an ingredient in toothpaste, may also aid in remineralization.
Xylitol, a sugar alcohol sweetener, can also stimulate alkaline and mineral-rich saliva—and as you now know, more saliva production can lead to remineralization. Lucky for you, you can find xylitol in mints or gum.
Finally, if you have concerns about remineralization, talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about the best plan, whether that’s using a particular toothpaste, adjusting your diet, or looking into medications. But above all, remineralization is a natural process that can be managed best by you. Your health, diet, and lifestyle all contribute to the state of your enamel, and with the right preventative care, you can continuously remineralize it before it goes away.
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.