How Do Teeth Get Demineralized?

April 02, 2021

How Do Teeth Get Demineralized?

What is demineralization of your teeth and enamel? In simple terms, it is the loss of minerals from an object, in this case from your teeth. One could break this down into two processes of loss: 

Bacterial: the most common cause involves the bacteria in your mouth. Your mouth is full of bacteria, which is not a bad thing, and your teeth are coated with a living film (biofilm) of bacteria. When they eat the sugars that enter your mouth, they produce quite a bit of acid. These acidic byproducts don’t just float away but are held by plaque, and so they remain in place against your enamel. If the acid levels drop below 5.5 then this is enough to soften and dissolve the enamel (what primarily gets dissolved is the main component of your enamel, a type of calcium called hydroxyapatite). In a healthy, balanced mouth (and where the sugar intake is not extraordinary) the saliva counteracts the acid in the plaque, this takes a few hours, and “disarms” the acid. When this occurs, then the acids are gone and the minerals are free to leave the plaque and be reabsorbed by the enamel.
 
Erosion: consider these outside influences, although they may contribute to bacterial demineralization these are primarily non-bacterial in nature. Acidic foods and drinks, such as lemon juice, orange juice, carbonated sodas (both diet and sugary), wine, coffee and so forth, will soften the enamel and allow demineralization to take place. Loss of enamel can also occur from hard tooth brushes, teeth bleaching and abrasive toothpastes such as those with charcoal. Another common source can be from stomach acid (very acidic), a problem mainly affecting acid-reflux suffers.

 

Your tooth enamel is the hardest substance in your body and is primarily made up of a form of mineral, hydroxyapatite (a composition of calcium, phosphorous and oxygen). And while your enamel is a fantastic and durable substance, it is dead tissue and it does not regenerate. Once your adult enamel has grown in then that is all you will have for the rest of your life.

The good news is that evolution intended these teeth to last a lifetime. Aside from hockey pucks, bar room brawls or accidents, the enamel is meant to last. Nature even provides a process of remineralization, your own saliva, that would normally supply minerals to counteract normal mineral loss occurs.

That is right, Nature designed saliva to remineralize your teeth and to maintain a healthy pH balance. But this system evolved over many eons during a time when our ancestors ate very little in the way of sugars, grains and of course pretty much ZERO in terms of processed foods and simple carbohydrates.

Saliva can only do so much, and when overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of sugars and acids in today’s world, it simply cannot keep up.

It takes a really long time for evolution to do its job and while our bodies had a really, really long time to adapt to pre-agricultural diets there has not been enough time to adapt to our “new” diets that are high in grains, fruits, sugars and such. This is particularly true of the last couple hundred years.

Consider this alarming fact: 200 hundred years ago, on a yearly basis an American ate only 2 pounds of sugar BUT today the average American eats over 150 pounds of sugar every year. Or, looked at another way, in several days the average American today eats more sugar than our recent ancestors ate in an entire year.

Back to our earlier bit on bacteria: your mouth, and your body, was never bacteria free. Nor was it ever meant to be or should be free of bacteria. Bacteria is an essential, critical and vital part of our lives–simply put, we could not live or exist without it. But the overload of sugar, carbs, poor diets, chemicals and other additives have thrown our systems into extreme, and unhealthy, bacterial imbalances.

Now, add to the this sugar overload, the many acidic foods that we eat, such as sodas or even “good” foods like orange juice, and our enamel (strong as it is) gets weaker and weaker as time goes by.

The good news is that your teeth, and enamel, are pretty strong and so it can take years to really destroy your teeth–they don't just melt away–and so you can take action to keep your teeth strong.

The bad news is that your enamel, and teeth, will not regrow. Eventually the enamel is dissolved away and the inner tooth, being far softer, is wide open to destruction, decay and infection.

What Are the Initial Signs of Tooth Demineralization?

It should make sense by now, that the process of tooth demineralization is an ongoing affair. In a healthy mouth, together with a healthy diet, your saliva would be keeping things safe by balancing the pH levels and helping to return those “lost” minerals back into the enamel.

But, as demineralization overtakes the natural remineralization, this will progress to enamel erosion, tooth decay and gum disease. By the time you get a cavity, it is already too late.

The two main signs that your teeth are becoming demineralizes are, in order:

One: a chalky white spot has appeared on your tooth. This is an indication that demineralization is occurring.

Two: increased tooth sensitivity. As your enamel weakens, this allows more pressure to “hit” the inner tubules that are in the layer under the enamel. The pressure travels to the nerve endings and this causes pain or sensitivity. It is a sign of weakening enamel.

There are many steps you can take to prevent demineralization. It is wise to do so as your enamel is yours to keep–but not to regrow.

Learn more about steps that you can take to not only prevent demineralization of your teeth but also to restore minerals back to your enamel on our other blogs (hint: our powerful pro-mineralizing toothpaste works wonders).





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