Minerals such as calcium and phosphate help make up tooth enamel, along with bone and dentin. They also prevent tooth decay and subsequent cavities.
As you age, you lose the minerals in your teeth. This may be caused by eating sugary and acidic foods. It also occurs when bacteria accumulate in your mouth. Once the enamel or bone are gone, there’s no way to get these back without replacing the tooth entirely.
However, it’s possible to help replenish these minerals with lifestyle changes and home remedies before tooth decay occurs. This process is known as remineralization.
Talk to your dentist about the following treatment measures to help remineralize your teeth.
1. Brush your teeth
Brushing your teeth is important in bacteria removal. Cavities (also called dental caries) are primarily caused by the accumulation of Streptococcus mutans bacteria in your mouth.
According to a 2016 study, these bacteria are transmitted via food and drink. Brushing your teeth regularly can remove the bacteria that may lead to mineral loss and cavities.
2. Use fluoride toothpaste
Not just any toothpaste will work against demineralization. The Academy of General Dentistry recommends fluoride toothpaste because it prevents tooth decay via remineralization. Fluoride can also strengthen your teeth, making them less susceptible to future mineral loss.
3. Cut out sugar
Your dentist has likely warned you about sugar in the past, and for good reason. Sugar is highly acidic and interacts with bacteria in the mouth by breaking down tooth enamel. Honey and table sugar (sucrose) appear to be the worst culprits.
More importantly, one study found that a higher frequency in sugar consumption led to demineralization more than the amount of sugar consumed. In other words, eating sugary foods in small amounts on a regular basis can do more harm compared to eating the occasional sugar-laden dessert.
4. Chew sugarless gum
The role of gum in oral health has been debatable for decades, but studies are showing that sugarless versions may actually promote tooth remineralization. According to one study, sugar-free gum helps remove sugar, plaque, and carbs from teeth while also encouraging your salivary glands to produce more saliva.
The gum can also act as a barrier to block mineral loss. Xylitol and sorbitol appear the most promising sugar-free ingredients. To reap the remineralization benefits of sugarless gum, consider chewing after or in-between meals.
5. Consume fruit and fruit juices in moderation
While fruit is a part of a healthy, balanced diet, it can also be highly acidic. Some of the worst culprits are citrus fruits, such as grapefruit and oranges.
Fruit acids create a process of calcium chelation on tooth enamel. This means that the acids bind to calcium and strip it away. Fruit juices are even worse, as these are highly acidic and often contain added sugars. Your best bet is to stay away from juices and to eat acidic fruits only on occasion.
6. Get more calcium
While calcium is produced within the teeth naturally, this important mineral is stripped from acids and bacteria over time. You can replace calcium by eating calcium-rich foods. For example, one study found that eating calcium-rich cheese could counteract the effects of eating sugar.
If your diet is deficient in calcium, talk to your doctor about possible supplementation.
7. Decrease dairy product consumption
While dairy products may be natural sources of calcium, the lactose in traditional milk products can increase acidity in your mouth. This is because lactose is a type of sugar. You can still reap the benefits of calcium by choosing lactose-free milk, or by opting for almond or soy milk.
8. Consider probiotics
When considering probiotics for remineralization, it’s important to choose strains that are naturally produced in the mouth. Therefore, you’re replacing the good bacteria, without introducing potentially harmful strains.
The following probiotics are potentially helpful in oral health and remineralization:
You can find probiotics in supplemental form at the drugstore. Certain yogurt brands also contain probiotics. You’ll need to take these daily for best results.
9. Address your dry mouth
Dry mouth occurs when there isn’t enough saliva production. Saliva’s not only important in keeping your mouth feeling comfortable, but it also helps prevent cavities. According to the International Journal of Nanomedicine, saliva is an integral part of remineralization. Not only does saliva prevent dry mouth, but it also contains phosphate and calcium.
Talk to your dentist about gums and rinses you can use to increase saliva activity.
10. Reduce starchy foods
Starchy foods, such as potatoes, rice, and bread, are loaded with simple carbohydrates. These also increase the amount of fermentable sugars in the mouth, which can erode your teeth.
However, according to a study, the risk of tooth decay tends to be higher when eating starchy foods combined with sugar. For example, sweetened potatoes are problematic for the teeth, but plain ones are not.
11. Drink more water
Water continues to be the preferred beverage of choice by doctors, nutritionists, and dentists. It’s not only naturally sugar-free, but it also helps remove harmful items from the body. Rinsing your mouth out with water may also help reduce demineralization when you don’t have a toothbrush on hand. This technique may be especially helpful after eating acidic or sugary foods.
While coffee and tea aren’t completely off-limits, they do little to remineralize your teeth. Plus, these substances can be acidic (especially coffee). Adding sugar can make these drinks even worse when it comes to oral health. Sodas are also acidic, and often contain sugar, so they should be limited, too.
The bottom line
Mineral loss is inevitable because of the elements teeth are exposed to every day. From food and drinks, to saliva and bacteria, your teeth are put through a lot of wear and tear. While your teeth are built to take on these elements, too much demineralization can eventually wear them down. Taking steps to demineralize your teeth, along with regular visits to your dentist, can help keep them healthy.