Tooth enamel is the hard, protective surface on the teeth. When the mineral content in the tooth enamel decreases, it’s a first step toward tooth decay. Healthy tooth enamel, which is smooth and slippery, becomes rough, allowing tartar, plaque and stain to adhere more easily. Enamel that’s weakened by demineralization is more easily penetrated by bacteria, which can infect the tooth’s interior dentin and root.
Demineralization can result in white spots, weakening, or cavities, and can make teeth stained and unattractive. Additionally, loss of mineral content can cause teeth to become sensitive, making brushing uncomfortable and often resulting in decreased in oral hygiene.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to tooth demineralization. Acidic drinks such as sodas, diet sodas, sports drinks and flavored waters are a major cause due to their phosphoric acid content. Although, most people are aware of the many negative health effects these drinks can have, they may not have considered the erosion that occurs to tooth enamel.
However, not only drinks are responsible for acid in the mouth. Many otherwise healthful foods and drinks are also acidic. Citrus fruits, tomatoes and tomato sauce, juices, tea, and coffee are among some of the higher acid items.
This doesn’t mean that these acidic foods and drinks must be avoided, but rinsing the mouth with water immediately after consuming them and then waiting for at least 30 minutes before brushing can certainly help to prevent further damage. Chewing sugar-free gum can help by producing saliva, the natural way the body helps to rinse acids and bacteria away from the teeth.
Although a diet that is lacking in foods that are high in minerals such as green leafy vegetables can cause insufficient minerals in tooth enamel, consuming more of these or taking mineral supplements won’t help restore enamel unless the deficiency is the cause of loss. In fact, extreme overconsumption can actually cause other health problems.
Stomach acids from conditions such as acid reflux or bulimia can also raise the oral acidity levels and weakening of enamel. In addition, brushing too hard, especially with a hard toothbrush, or not maintaining proper oral hygiene habits can contribute to mineral loss. Certain medications and commonly with drug abuse, evidence of enamel demineralization can be found.
Unfortunately, enamel cannot be restored or regenerated, but fluoride, a naturally occurring inorganic chemical compound common in dentistry, is the main solution for reversing the process and re-mineralizing and restoring the strong, smooth surface of teeth.
If early enamel demineralization is not treated and its causes not determined and eliminated, extensive damage can occur. After an examination, a dentist may advise the addition of a topical fluoride to the tooth surfaces. A common way is by applying a gel to the teeth after cleaning. Some toothpastes or gels, or mouth rinses are available for use at home.
In order to ensure proper tooth enamel mineralization, it’s vital to follow good oral hygiene practices and to visit the dentist for regular checkups and cleaning. Fortunately, demineralization can be found, stopped, and teeth can stay protected with help from a dentist.
If would like more information or have concerns about demineralization of your teeth, Dr. Heidi Finkelstein and her caring staff at My Plantation Dentist can help. To schedule your appointment, please contact us today at 954-584-1030.