At first glance, “tooth remineralisation” sounds like some sort of constructive oral surgery, but not to worry: in reality it’s just another term to describe strengthening your teeth against cavities by increasing the minerals in your teeth. Tooth and enamel remineralisation is a relatively simple process. Did you know that by maintaining the right pH balance in your saliva, avoiding certain foods, and choosing a cavity-fighting fluoride toothpaste, you’re already working toward tooth and enamel remineralisation?
How To Remineralise Your Teeth
Before discussing methods for remineralising teeth, it’s essential to understand the naturally occurring tooth remineralisation process and demineralisation. According to the Cleveland Clinic, based in the United States, the enamel layers on your teeth add and lose minerals daily. Demineralisation happens when acids found in germs and sugar attack your enamel. In contrast, remineralisation occurs when minerals like fluoride, calcium, and phosphate reunite with your enamel when you consume food and water containing these minerals. When there is an imbalance between these two processes—say, when there is too much demineralisation and not enough mineralisation—tooth cavities may occur.
Remember, this is a natural process that happens to everyone. According to a study published by the United States National Institutes of Health, teeth are naturally at risk of demineralisation simply due to their location and exposure. Luckily though, to withstand this exposure, they’ve developed a resistance to localised demineralisation that’s stronger than bone.
Your mouth is one big ecosystem; it’s just a matter of making sure everything is in balance. One of the most critical factors in that balance—and thus in achieving remineralisation—is your saliva.
While fluoride toothpaste can aid in remineralising your teeth, your saliva plays a crucial role in preventing demineralisation, 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 demineralisation. Saliva is also cleansing and helps to fight germs. 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 remineralisation—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, based in the United States, 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 cavities. But when your saliva pH returns to its neutral state, it promotes tooth remineralisation.
It’s important to note that some autoimmune diseases, salivary conditions, and medications can affect your salivary flow or cause dry mouth, so it’s essential to discuss your medical history when visiting your dentist.
While this might all sound a bit scientific and complicated, it’s completely 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 really quite easy!
At this point, you may be wondering: how do I maintain my saliva’s pH balance so my teeth can remineralise? How can I prevent demineralisation? Your levels of saliva, diet, and oral hygiene habits all play an important role in the remineralisation of your teeth. Here are some specific ways to maintain a well-balanced mouth that’s ready for mineralisation.
- Maintain a proper saliva pH: It’s important to make sure you’re producing saliva, since it plays such an important role in maintaining your mouth’s pH. One common technique is to swish water in your mouth after eating and drinking. Chewing sugar-free gum and sucking on sugar-free sweets can also promote saliva production.
- Use fluoride toothpaste: Fluoride is one of the most common and effective methods in preventing demineralisation and can be found in most pharmacies.
- Floss daily: Flossing helps eliminate hard-to-reach food in your mouth, which can lead to germs that weaken your enamel.
- Add probiotics to your diet: Probiotics, or “good bacteria” like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, are typically found in dairy products like yoghurt, and can also be taken as supplements. Probiotics have been shown to reduce the germs in your mouth, thus aiding in cavity prevention and other oral diseases, as well as preventing the demineralisation of your enamel.
- Avoid foods high in sugar, carbohydrates, and acidic foods: According to the Oral Hygiene Association of South Africa (OHASA), soft drinks contain inherent acids and sugars that result in dental caries and potential enamel erosion.
- Talk to your dentist: Your dentist or dental hygienist will be able to identify cavities or spots in your mouth that lack enamel strength; if they catch these issues early, they may recommend or prescribe an effective fluoride treatment.
Products That Remineralise Teeth
Suppose you want to add a remineralisation product to your oral hygiene routine. In that case, there are plenty of 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 pharmacies. Fluoride is a crucial ingredient in remineralisation: once fluoride is in your enamel, it combines with calcium and phosphate to create a defence system that prevents cavities.
Further, according to a 2019 study published by the National Institutes of Health, calcium phosphate (ACP), which can be ingested as a milk protein or found as an ingredient in toothpaste, may also aid in remineralisation.
Xylitol, a sugar alcohol sweetener, can also stimulate alkaline and mineral-rich saliva—and as you now know, more saliva production can lead to remineralisation. Lucky for you, you can find xylitol in some mints and gum.
Finally, if you have concerns about remineralisation, 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. Above all, remineralisation 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 remineralise your teeth.