Remineralization: How to Protect Your Teeth Between Dental Visits
Dental patients usually notice that their teeth feel different after cleaning at their dentist’s office. The clean sensation can persist for weeks, as the teeth remain relatively free of plaque and tartar. However, another buildup of plaque is likely to develop after a few months.
The risk of tooth decay increases the longer that plaque is allowed to remain on teeth. Plaque contains bacteria that react to food and drinks, especially those containing sugar. The bacterial breakdown of sugar creates an acidic environment that weakens your tooth enamel.
An acidic environment weakens teeth because the acid dissolves some of the calcium and phosphate minerals in the enamel. However, the damage is not necessarily permanent. In the absence of food and sugary drinks, a rebuilding process referred to as mineralization occurs naturally.
Saliva contains calcium and phosphate. When teeth are not exposed to food or drinks, the natural process of mineralization returns calcium and phosphate to the enamel. Between dental visits, there are certain activities you can undertake to aid the process of mineralization.
Brush With Fluoride Toothpaste
Regular brushing is not just for removing food particles from teeth. Brushing produces a less acidic environment, which allows the calcium and phosphate in saliva to mineralize on the tooth enamel. Using a fluoride toothpaste accelerates the mineralization process.
The presence of fluoride inhibits the interaction of sugar with the bacteria in plaque, allowing calcium and phosphate to mineralize more effectively. Relatively little fluoride is contained in saliva, so it is important for your teeth to receive small exposures to fluoride during the day.
Young children should be closely supervised if they brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste. The excessive consumption of fluoride by a person whose teeth are not fully developed may result in fluorosis, a discoloration of the teeth. Make sure children do not swallow any toothpaste. You might also restrict the amount of fluoride toothpaste children use during brushing.
Use Fluoride Mouthwash
Another method to apply a small amount of fluoride to your teeth is through the use of a specialized mouthwash. Many retailers sell a variety of fluoride rinse products. The use of a fluoride rinse before going to sleep allows the mineralization process to occur overnight.
Fluoride can even help reduce cavities. Some municipal water systems do not add fluoride to their water supply. If you are certain there is no fluoride in your water, consider using one of the fluoride rinse products nightly.
Chew Sugar-Free Gum
When brushing your teeth is not practical, chewing sugar-free gum is an acceptable alternative. The chewing of sugar-free gum has been shown to increase the production of saliva, which may help inhibit bacterial activity. The American Dental Association provides a list of sugar-free gum brands that meet the criteria for effectiveness.
Add Specialized Toothpaste
Some well-known brands offer toothpaste that contains specialized ingredients to promote dental health. Some kinds of toothpaste contain calcium, one of the minerals necessary for the mineralization of enamel. Other kinds of toothpaste contain an antibacterial agent to fight plaque bacteria. The antibacterial ingredient may also help prevent gingivitis and gum disease.
Consider Fluoride Treatment
The actions you take at home are all helpful, but a periodical professional treatment is recommended.
Professional fluoride treatment can be applied at one of your bi-annual dental appointments, and this treatment will help achieve a longer period of protection. A thin layer of fluoride is applied to your teeth as a gel or varnish. The treatment is relatively quick, and the coating sets in a short time.
The periodic removal of plaque is essential to minimize the bacteria that can lead to periodontal disease. Contact Family Dental Center to schedule an appointment.