Dental marketing does an excellent job of reminding you about
gingivitis and tooth decay… but what happened to discussions about how to strengthen tooth enamel?
Recent controversies about fluoride may have caused marketers to take a different approach, shifting into more profitable and flashy verticals such as
teeth whitening—especially in markets like Beverly Hills. However, no matter which other cosmetic treatments you may be interested in, you need to care for your teeth’s best line of defense against cavities: your tooth enamel. What Is Tooth Enamel?
Enamel is the semi-transparent outermost protective layer of the tooth. This coating is the most resilient material in the human body but can get damaged from a lack of proper dental care. Tooth decay occurs when the tooth enamel is weakened through demineralization and wears away, exposing the dentin underneath.
When you have strong enamel, it protects the visible part of the tooth against decay, which is why it's so important to prevent enamel erosion by supplying the minerals your enamel needs and reducing habits that demineralize your teeth.
How to Strengthen Weak Enamel
The inclusion of fluoride in your daily dental routine can help to protect and reinforce (i.e. re-mineralize) your tooth enamel because fluoride replaces hydroxyl compounds in tooth enamel with a fluorapatite compound that's stronger than the hydroxyapatite produced by the body.
Some countries fluoridate the municipal water supply, but with the popularity of filtered and bottled waters and the debates surrounding the ingestion of fluoride, we have seen a decline in dental health over the last decade. But, as non-ingestible dental products go, the more fluoride that hits your teeth, the better.
Other Ways to Strengthen Tooth Enamel
Besides using fluoride toothpaste to protect and strengthen your tooth enamel, there are several other things you can do to reduce demineralization and promote healthy teeth:
Limit Sugary Foods, Acidic Foods, Sweetened Starchy Foods, and Acidic Drinks
Eating acidic or sugary foods and drinking acidic beverages like coffee accelerates demineralization because the acidic foods combine with bacteria in the mouth to create a perfect enamel-eating acid storm. Eating starchy foods combined with sugar is worse than eating starches (like bread) alone.
One study found that a higher frequency of sugar consumption caused more demineralization than eating a larger amount of sugar at once. So if you want to eat acidic fruits or a sugar-rich dessert, it's best to enjoy it all at once as an occasional treat rather than having small amounts frequently throughout each day.
Chew Sugar-Free Gum
Chewing sugar-free gum helps to strengthen tooth enamel for two reasons:
Chewing gum stimulates saliva production, which helps to re-mineralize your teeth because
saliva contains mineral salts and antimicrobial agents
Sugarless gum that contains xylitol also helps to remove sugar, carbs, and plaque from teeth after a meal, especially when you're out and aren't able to brush your teeth.
Eat Bone-Healthy Nutrients
Calcium is produced naturally in the teeth but is stripped by bacteria and acids in a process known as calcium chelation. According to a
2012 study, vitamin D may also help to prevent tooth decay. Ingesting certain probiotics—such as Bifidobacterium, reuteri, rhamnosus, and salivarius—may also help to replace good bacteria in the mouth.
For healthier enamel, consider including calcium, probiotics, and vitamin D-containing foods regularly in your diet, and take vitamin D supplements if you don't get enough dietary vitamin D. Eating healthy fats such as those found in fatty fish can help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D and A.
Can Tooth Enamel be Restored?
Restoring weakened tooth enamel is not easy, and some say it can't be done. It’s essential to recognize that fluoride can fill minor spaces in the enamel structure, but it can't make new enamel or replace missing layers. The minerals need a platform to stick to, so there needs to be enough intact enamel to give the repair process a fighting chance.
If you lose a lot of enamel in one area, you may have more significant problems that need to be restored with
porcelain inlays and onlays. That's why it's so important to use a really good fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash so you can repair your enamel daily and protect your teeth from the small amounts of acid damage that follow every meal. Do New Enamel-Strengthening Toothpastes Really Work?
The most common kinds of toothpaste marketed today fall into one of two categories:
1) Whitening toothpaste
2) Enamel repair toothpaste
Enamel repair toothpaste is being produced by brands such as Crest and Sensodyne, which claim that their product can repair and restore tooth enamel. Do these newer products work? A
study done by The Wall Street Journal studied various brands making claims such as "protects against acid attacks," "protects against the effects of acid erosion," and "helps harden tooth enamel with acid protection formula."
The claims mentioned in the study are based on the amount of fluoride in the product. Scientists say that increasing the amount of fluoride in the paste, combined with the natural minerals in people's mouths, creates fluorapatite, which acts as a protective shield for your teeth. In addition, some toothpastes are formulated to be less abrasive to help protect the enamel from rubbing off when brushing, which further helps the process.
Strengthen Tooth Enamel and Enjoy Healthy Teeth
Knowing how to strengthen enamel is the first step to keeping your teeth healthy and preventing tooth decay. And no matter how strong or decayed your teeth are, it's still essential to see your dentist.
Even if your teeth look good now, a dental professional can pick up problems before you can see them yourself and help to prevent the problem from becoming worse. If your teeth are already demineralized or decayed, there is still hope. If you have your teeth evaluated and treated in a timely manner, you will be well on the way to the best possible dental health and a beautiful smile.