If you have your natural teeth, your smile reveals the condition of the enamel that covers the outer layer of each tooth. It’s the hardest, most mineralized substance in your body.
As strong as it is, it’s no match for the acid created by the bacteria in your mouth.
The result? Tooth decay.
Enamel forms a barrier that protects the inner, more sensitive layers of your teeth. It’s important to do what you can to avoid the erosion of the enamel on your teeth. The erosion process is called demineralization.
Saliva: The First Line of Defense
Demineralization can produce cavities or white spots on the surface of your teeth. Whether minerals are being leached from your enamel or it’s being strengthened (remineralization) depends on the environment of our mouth.
The most important aspect of your mouth’s ecosystem is your saliva.
Your saliva contains minerals that help strengthen your teeth while keeping your mouth less acidic. These minerals, mostly calcium and phosphorus, are constantly being exchanged on the surface of your teeth.
Plus, your saliva helps keep your mouth in either a neutral or slightly alkaline state.
If you’re healthy, your mouth should be slightly alkaline with a pH in the 7.5 to 8.5 range. This is the ideal environment for remineralization. When there is sufficient saliva your teeth and mouth tissues are protected. You can chew, swallow and speak. Plus, you’re less likely to get an infection by bacteria, yeasts or viruses.
This is why dry mouth (xerostomia) from mouth breathing when sleeping can affect the health of your teeth.
What You Can Do
Demineralization and remineralization are natural processes. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to avoid the loss of tooth enamel. You’re probably familiar with most of them:
- Brush your teeth at least twice daily and be sure to floss. This reduces the bacterial growth responsible for the acids that damage tooth enamel.
- Avoid the consumption of sugary foods and drinks. Acid producing mouth bacteria feast on sugar.
- Eat foods rich in calcium and phosphorous, in particular green leafy vegetables, cheese, fish and eggs.
- Get regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings. Early detection of demineralization improves treatment options.
- Consider oral care products that help remineralization by containing fluoride and natural calcium.
There has been some progress in the creation of commercial products that can help remineralize our teeth. But in the end, good oral care habits matter even more.