What is Demineralization and Remineralization of Tooth Enamel?

Published:August 12th, 2010

Our teeth are protected by the hard structure at their surface, called enamel. Underneath the tooth enamel there is the dentin. Our teeth are primarily made of calcium and phosphorus, just like our bones. Our saliva has a high concentration of calcium and phosphorus ions, the stuff our teeth are made of. There is a high concentration of calcium and phosphorus ions in our blood as well. With a healthy diet, you can ensure a high concentration of calcium and phosphorus ions in your saliva.

There are three or four main types of bacteria that produce tooth decay. They produce toxic waste products in the form of acids that attack the tooth enamel. The availability of calcium and phosphorus ions in the saliva keeps our teeth healthy. If the deposits can go back into the tooth structure about as fast as they are leaving, then our teeth can stay healthy. If the reverse is true, cavities start to develop.

We can produce about a liter of saliva per day. However, if our salivary glands atrophy, they produce saliva in a smaller amount. In such cases, the roots of our teeth, root surfaces, gum areas protecting the roots deteriorate at a rapid rate.

Demineralization and remineralization of teeth are processes that have a vital impact on the strength of our tooth enamel. Food is the main source of minerals for the teeth. An adequate diet and sufficient time for chewing food allows the transfer of minerals from the food to the saliva.

While demineralization is accelerated by the refined sugars and processed foods we eat, remineralization is inadequate for maintaining strong enamel. The remineralization mechanism is enhanced by eating unprocessed foods that are rich in minerals, such as natural or organic foods.

Carbonic acid is the key to a natural remineralization process. Our bodies use carbon dioxide from our breath and water from the saliva, to create a mild, unstable carbonic acid. Carbonic acids can dissolve minerals in our saliva, but it quickly converts to carbon dioxide and water. If a particular mineral ion happens to be near a demineralized portion, the ion is incorporated into the dental enamel.

Natural remineralization is always taking place, however the level of activity varies greatly depending on the conditions in the mouth.

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