How a healthy mouth contributes towards this important process.
Many patients tend to think of teeth as solid objects, whereas they actually consist of several layers. The exterior enamel layer is hard and offers the necessary strength to chew and bite our food.
The layer beneath, the dentin layer, is softer and porous and allows ‘access’ to the nerves which are stored in the root canals of the tooth. It is the enamel layer which we see when we look in the mirror though, and what many of us may be unaware of is, that when we eat, we lose some of the minerals from this layer, causing it to soften just a little.
This softening is not something that our Wickford patients would notice, but for a short period of time, with the loss of some of these minerals which include calcium and phosphate, our teeth are a little more vulnerable to problems such as decay and acid damage.
A word about brushing your teeth
Before we move on to discuss the remineralisation process, it is probably a good time to mention that, due to the softer nature of our teeth following a meal, it is a good idea to allow at least 30 minutes to lapse after we have finished eating before we brush our teeth. If we brush before then, the enamel is softer and more vulnerable and may result in some enamel erosion. Doing this on a regular basis can cause significant long term damage to our teeth.
What happens during remineralisation?
As we lose minerals from our teeth when we eat, so these are restored afterwards, or at least where our overall oral health is good. The minerals that are used to restore the enamel of our teeth are contained in our saliva. Finishing a meal with something that promotes good saliva flow is an excellent idea as this will help to speed up the remineralisation process. Cheese is ideal for this as it not only stimulates saliva flow but helps to reduce the potentially tooth damaging acid environment in our mouth as well.
It is also important that we stay well hydrated in order to keep a healthy saliva flow. This should be done by drinking sufficient water, not only in hot weather, but in cold too. High sugar drinks are not a suitable replacement for water and their high acid levels are also likely to contribute to further mineral loss.
Signs of demineralisation
Providing that the demineralisation and remineralisation processes are kept in balance, there is every chance that our teeth will remain strong and healthy, providing that we look after them correctly with regular cleaning and professional supervision from one of the dentists at the Cygnet Dental Practice. When this becomes out of balance though, and our teeth do not remineralise effectively, there are a number of potential symptoms that may be present.
One of the earliest ‘warning signs’ that this process may be taking place is the presence of white spots on your teeth. Although not always the case, these can also be an early sign that tooth decay is starting. In fact, where we lose too many minerals from the tooth, it starts to weaken, and bacteria can then start to eat away at the enamel until the dentin layer is reached. At this stage, you will almost certainly need to have a filling. This can be done using a traditional amalgam filling, or one of the white dental fillings that we offer for our Wickford and Rayleigh patients.
What you can do to prevent excess demineralisation?
Apart from ensuring that you have a healthy saliva flow, which we mentioned earlier; you can help to keep the enamel on your teeth healthy in a number of ways.
Firstly, avoid an overly excessive acid diet. High sugar food and drinks are some of the worst things that you can consume from this perspective (as well as contributing to the well documented obesity crisis). Even ‘healthy’ foods such as citric fruits can contribute towards enamel erosion too, due to their highly acidic nature.
Brushing your teeth regularly, half an hour after eating, is also sensible. Not only will this help to remove any food particles from your teeth, but also reduce the number of potentially harmful bacteria too. Remember too, to use dental floss to keep the spaces between your teeth clean. Using a fluoride toothpaste is also important as this helps to strengthen the enamel and protect it against decay.
Regular dental checks are also essential. We will be able to spot early signs of excessive demineralisation and advise you how to counter this. In addition, we will be able to treat any early stages of tooth decay in a much less invasive way than if the problem was not detected for much longer.
There are also some tooth remineralising toothpastes that are now available. These may be useful, although the science of these is still in the relatively early stages and the benefits are likely to improve with time.
If you live in the Wickford and Rayleigh area and have any concerns about white spots on your teeth, or would just like to get your overall oral health back on track, we are here to help you. You can call the Cygnet Dental Practice for an appointment by calling us on 01268 733078.