Keeping your teeth healthy, and effectively improving their strength is like magic! In many cases, remineralisation of the teeth seems too good to be true, however, dentists the world over believe in this concept and encourage their patients to facilitate it.
Mopani Pharmacy consulted Dr Liezl van der Walt, from the Van der Walt Dental Practice in Van Wijk Street, Nelspruit, on what it means and how it works;
What is tooth remineralisation?
“In the first stage of tooth decay, demineralisation can be reversed or arrested, if your enamel recovers lost minerals. This is known as tooth remineralization”, said Dr Liezl, “This can actually happen successfully if the demineralisation has not started breaking away the enamel and if certain steps are taken”, she concluded.
This does not mean you can skip your professional cleanings and check-ups, but you sure can do something to minimise the work needed to be done in the future!
Can you explain the levels of tooth decay?
“There are different levels of tooth decay; The first stage is demineralisation of the tooth surface – this would be the enamel. This begins as chalky white spots on the tooth. In stage two, a cavity starts forming in the tooth surface, breaking down the enamel.
When you reach the third stage, the cavity reaches the dentin. This layer is in between the enamel and pulp (nerve) of the tooth. Pain may start to increase now as the cavity gets deeper and closer to the nerve of the tooth. In stage four, the cavity reaches the centre of the tooth which is called the pulp. This consists of blood vessels and the nerve of the tooth. This causes extreme constant pain.”
Now, as Dr Liezl mentioned that tooth decay can be reversed in the first stage, it does not mean that you should give up if your tooth decay has progressed – the rest of the tooth and the other teeth that does not have a cavity just yet, can still benefit from remineralisation!
What causes tooth decay?
“Plaque is a sticky biofilm that develops when food, usually carbohydrates and sugar, stays behind on teeth. Bacteria that naturally live in the mouth thrive on these foods producing acids as a result. These acids destroy tooth enamel resulting in cavities, also known as tooth decay. When plaque hardens on teeth it forms calculus or tartar.”
Chances are, that you might have some build up. It is recommended that you have your teeth professionally cleaned every six months, to a year. Once plaque hardens to tartar, normal brushing will not get it off.
How do you minimise sugar and acid in the mouth after eating or drinking something that is acidic or full of sugar?
- Rinse with mouthwash or water after meals
- Eat something alkaline such as cheese at the end of a meal
- Chew sugar free gum with xylitol, as it may help to reduce tooth decay
- Drink some water or milk
- Brush and floss your teeth, 30 minutes after your meal
Tooth discolouration may be an indicator of tooth decay, but not always – what causes tooth discolouration?
- Certain foods or drinks can stain your teeth; such as coffee, tea, wine, soft drinks, curries
- Inadequate brushing
- Certain medications for example such as certain antibiotics
- Certain mouthwashes containing chlorhexidine can stain teeth if used on a permanent basis – check the bottle for ingredients
- With age the outer layer of teeth gets worn away making teeth look yellow.
- Fluorosis – Excessive fluoride at a young age can cause permanent teeth to develop with brown and white spots on the enamel
- Genetics – Sometimes you are just born to have teeth that are less than pearly white
- Dental materials – An amalgam filling can cause grey black discolouration of the enamel
- Trauma for example damage from a fall can cause a tooth to discolour
How do I facilitate tooth remineralisation?
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a high fluoride toothpaste. The use of a high fluoride mouthwash together with brushing will increase remineralisation. Floss at least once daily to remove food particles from in between teeth.
- Cut out or minimise sugars, starchy foods, carbonated drinks.
- Drink more water. Not only does it rinse away food and bacteria, but it keeps you hydrated and help to prevent dry mouth.
- Saliva is important because it rinses food and bacteria away, it contains calcium and phosphate which is needed for remineralisation. It also keeps the mouth less acidic.
- Chewing sugarless gum encourages salivary glands to produce more saliva and helps to remove plaque from teeth.
- You can also use artificial saliva products to moisten your mouth.
- Consume more calcium, vitamins and phosphorus by eating calcium rich foods like cheese and green leafy vegetables.
- Probiotics help to replace the good bacteria that is naturally found in the mouth.
- Reduce intake of fruit juices and highly acidic fruits like grape fruit. Fruit juices is not only highly acidic but often contains added sugars.
Which probiotic strains are the most beneficial for your mouth?
“Increasing healthy bacteria in the mouth may reduce the bad bacteria as well as the amount of dental plaque build-up on teeth, and prevents bad breath”, said Dr Liezl. The strains you should look for when choosing your probiotic supplement, are as follows: Bifidobacterium, L Reuteri, Rhamnosus, S Salivarius.
How clean can your mouth really be?
“There are up to a thousand different types of bacteria in your mouth. Not all of them are bad and some are needed to help with digestion and prevent fungus infections. Other can cause infections in your mouth or body if your immunity is compromised or can cause cavities and tooth decay…
Therefore, it is important to get rid of the harmful bacteria with proper brushing, flossing and mouthwash, but to be honest, you will never get rid of all the bacteria in your mouth!”
How detrimental is protecting your teeth and facilitating remineralisation?
“It is important to start young. Dental caries (cavities and tooth decay), is the most common disease in children. About 60% of six-year-olds in South Africa have had tooth decay – it starts in their milk teeth. Between 45% – 60% of these children, are untreated. Only about 16% of the South African population are treated in the private sector.
This means that the rest are either waiting months for an appointment or not getting treated at all. Losing teeth is no longer linked to old age. One can lose a tooth to tooth decay at any age. This may result in need for a denture, to replace either one, or all of your teeth.”
If you would like to book a consultation with Dr Liezl, you can contact the Van der Walt dental practice on 013-744-3520, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more: Dental hygiene and your toddler
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