What Are We Talking About When We Talk Remineralization?

Last week, we looked at an unnatural – not to mention fluoride-laced – way to “heal” caries. But what about natural ways?

Microcaries 101

Before we get to your body’s amazing capability to heal itself, we’d like you introduce you to your teeth.

layers of toothEach tooth is made up of layers, The layer you see is the enamel. It’s the hardest layer – the hardest tissue in your whole body, in fact. You can think of it as your tooth’s defense layer.

Underneath is a softer layer, the dentin. Below that is the pulp chamber. It houses the tooth’s nerve and blood supply.

Caries is the clinical name for what you know as tooth decay. So when we talk about “microcaries,” we’re talking about tiny areas of decalcified enamel. That’s the doing of bacteria – and the acids they make, etching the tooth but not going through the enamel. They affect only the surface.

Once decay penetrates the dentin, a filling is usually in order. For while you can grow new dentin, you can’t grow new enamel. (Once the teeth are grown, we lose the cells required to make it.)

Microcaries are the beginning of a decay process. Left to its own devices, the decay will progress. But it can also be halted. It may also be reversed.

Remineralization 101

healthy teethWhile there are some dentists who feel it right to aggressively treat early surface decay, we generally believe – depending on your dental history and personal habits – your body is able to remineralize these acid-etched areas.

Importantly, remineralization doesn’t mean you grow new enamel. Rather, it means your body – via saliva – lays down new minerals in the etched area, which may protect it from advancing decay.

But like so many things, the likelihood of this happening depends largely on you. There are three keys to address:

Diet
Diet is key to overall wellness, including teeth. Research indicates a few especially important factors when it comes to your teeth’s remineralizing potential:

  • Get enough minerals in your diet, especially calcium and phosphorous.
  • Include fat soluble vitamins, particularly D3.
  • Ensure the bioavailability of nutrients by eating whole foods and dairy products that give your body the best chance at absorbing minerals.
  • Limit processed foods, sugar and diet beverages that deplete minerals.

Routine Dental Checkups
Routine dental exams and cleanings can prevent small problems from becoming big ones. Catching caries early gives you a better chance at remineralizing – and an opportunity to save dollars in the long run. Stay in touch!:

  • Schedule cleanings at least twice a year.
  • Schedule an exam at least once a year.

Effective Home Care, with Special Attention to Cleaning Between Your Teeth
Good home care is for everyone but particularly important for those dealing with decay. Your hygienist will coach you on the proper tools and techniques for making you’re your efforts are effective. After all, it’s what you do at home – not what we do in the office – that largely determines your mouth’s overall health.

  • Clean your teeth in front of a mirror to ensure proper technique.
  • Brush, brush, brush! Floss, floss, floss! Floss first if that will make sure you don’t “forget” to do it. (In fact, some research suggests that flossing before you brush is actually more effective.)
  • Use interdental or “proxy” brushes to clean hard to reach areas between teeth and at the gum line.

Our goal? Empower YOU to keep the area clean and to create a healthy mouth environment that enables remineralization to happen—without fluoride. Now that’s an alternative!

Photography by dozenist

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