You may have noticed that the advertising lingo in oral health products now sometimes includes “enamel restoring” or “enamel repair” on certain toothpastes and rinses. This may seem like a new development, and its not entirely misleading. However, toothpastes have been “repairing enamel” for as long as they have contained fluoride as an ingredient. How well can these products “heal” your teeth? You may be surprised by the answer to this question!
Knoxville family dentist Dr. Jack Haney can help you understand the state of your tooth enamel, and whether an enamel-strengthening product may be helpful. Call 865-693-6886 to schedule an exam and learn more about your teeth.
What is Tooth Enamel and How Can It Be “Restored”?
Tooth enamel is the hard, outer layer of tooth matter that forms the crown of your tooth: in other words, everything you see above the gum line. Below the gum line, your tooth does not have any protective enamel, which is why receding gums can be such a problem. Enamel has no nerve endings in it, and is incredibly hard and resistant to decay. However, enamel is not a living tissue, and it cannot heal itself once it has been destroyed. It does not grow anew once the tooth has erupted through the gums. What you get is all you’ll get.
However, it takes quite a bit of exposure to bacterial acids before a true cavity is formed. There is a step between “healthy” and “decayed” when enamel becomes demineralized. Often referred to as a soft spot, tooth enamel becomes weakened when acids leach minerals from the enamel structure. Before a cavity (or hole) in the enamel actually forms, the enamel must be demineralized.
Teeth can also experience enamel erosion due to a highly acidic diet. If you consume a great deal of soda or lemonade, or chew vitamin C tablets all day, the acidic environment may be contributing to demineralization. The good news is that teeth that have been weakened in this way can, in fact, be strengthened by the application of fluoride and other minerals.
How Oral Hygiene Products Remineralize Tooth Enamel
Fluoride is a natural repairing and strengthening agent for tooth enamel, and always has been. Brushing your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste will always be an excellent way to keep your teeth strong and resistant to decay. If you have pervasive demineralization, however, an enamel-focused product may deliver as stronger dose of medicine. The toothpastes that contain calcium phosphate, stannous fluoride, and other strong concentrations of fluoride can strengthen your enamel, provided you have enough healthy enamel to build on. If you already have cavities in your teeth, these products will not help you; nothing except a dental filling can “heal” a cavity.
Who Might Need Enamel-Repairing Products?
For most people, any fluoride-containing toothpaste will be adequate to keep your teeth strong. Regular dental appointments give your dentist and hygienist the opportunity to locate soft spots and apply a stronger fluoride gel to help ensure a cavity doesn’t form.
If your teeth have become eroded by age or acid exposure, an enamel-strengthening product may help you keep your teeth from developing new cavities. Tooth enamel naturally thins out as we get older, and teeth become more brittle. If you can tell that your teeth do not look as opaque and full as they once did, an enamel-strengthening toothpaste or rinse may help your teeth better resist further erosion.
Some signs you may benefit from enamel-strengthening treatments or products:
- General sensitivity to hot and cold
- Translucency at the edges
- Round or jagged appearance at the edges
- Dullness, overall yellowing, or white spots