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 them back without replacing the tooth entirely.
However, it is 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.
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.
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.
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 than eating the occasional sugar-laden dessert.
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 to be the most promising sugar-free ingredients. To reap the remineralization benefits of sugarless gum, consider chewing after or between meals.
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.
While calcium is produced within the teeth naturally, this important mineral is stripped by 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.
A 2012 study found that taking vitamin D supplements may help protect against cavities. Ask your doctor or dentist about taking vitamin D supplements
You should also take daily multi-vitamins to be sure you are getting other needed vitamins for healthy teeth.
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.
When considering probiotics for remineralization, it’s important to choose strains that are naturally produced in the mouth. That way, 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 supplement form at the drugstore. Certain yogurt brands also contain probiotics. You’ll need to take these daily for best results.
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. Saliva not only prevents dry mouth, but it also contains phosphate and calcium.
Talk to your dentist about gums and rinses you can use to increase saliva activity.
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 published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the risk of tooth decay tends to be higher when eating starchy foods combined with sugar. For example, sweetened rice is problematic for the teeth, but plain rice is not.
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 substances 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.
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.