Your teeth are covered in a layer of enamel and this is one of the hardest wearing substances in the human body. This doesn’t mean it’s impervious, as tooth enamel is susceptible to demineralization. If you examine tooth enamel under a microscope you’d see a crystalline lattice network consisting of several different types of minerals including calcium and phosphate. Demineralization occurs when these minerals are removed from this lattice network causing the enamel to become softer and weaker.
This softening process may not immediately be apparent, but over time the enamel layer will become thinner and you may notice your teeth become more sensitive towards hot and cold foods. This thinner enamel layer offers less protection against dental decay and can lead to cavities forming in your teeth.
Why does demineralization occur?
Demineralization occurs every time you eat or drink foods as a result of acid attacking the teeth. Everyone has some level of plaque bacteria in the mouth, and these bacteria gradually build up throughout the day creating a sticky film over the teeth and gums. These bacteria feed off the remains of any food and drink, creating acid as a by-product.
The acid attacks the teeth causing the demineralization. This acid attack takes place within just a few minutes of eating and continues for at least half an hour. Your teeth can also come under attack if you eat a lot of acidic foods such as certain fruits and fruit juices.
Minimizing your risk
Cleaning your teeth twice a day
Cleaning your teeth at least twice a day is an effective way of helping to protect your tooth enamel. The best time to clean them is when you get up in the mornings before breakfast as plaque bacteria can build up overnight.
Brushing your teeth last thing at night will help remove all the particles of food that build up during the day so you go to bed with a nice clean mouth. It’s very important to brush your teeth at night because while you were asleep your mouth produces less saliva. Saliva normally helps to wash away plaque bacteria, and without it they can thrive.
Using fluoride products
Using fluoride toothpaste will help protect your teeth through hardening the tooth enamel and helping it to remineralize. It’s best just to spit out the excess toothpaste after you have finished brushing; this will help prolong the effects of the fluoride as it will remain in your saliva for quite some time. Your dentist may also recommend you use a fluoride mouthwash.
Choosing tooth friendly foods
Your diet can make a real difference to your teeth and including plenty of calcium will help keep them strong. It’s best to avoid drinking too many acidic fruit juices or sugary drinks, or eating sticky foods that tend to cling to the teeth for longer. These types of foods provide a continuous snack for plaque bacteria.
Try to limit your snacking, as every time you eat something your teeth, under acid attack. If you want to have a snack then choose something a little healthier such as crunchy vegetables or fruit with a high water content, or a piece of cheese that is rich in calcium.