If you’re looking to avoid fluoride, you might be worried about what that means for your teeth. You know you need to keep your enamel strong, but how will you do it without the ingredient that the majority of dentists recommend?
So much emphasis is placed on fluoride that most people are undereducated about its alternatives. When fluoride is the most widely reported solution, not enough information regarding the minerals teeth need to rebuild themselves is given.
Understanding how your teeth work, the remineralization process, and the minerals your teeth can easily utilize to strengthen their enamel is one of the most important aspects of a highly effective oral health routine.
Why Does Tooth Enamel Weaken?
Most people do a lot of things that weaken their enamel without realizing the implications. Tooth whitening products are the prime example. Most people have the idea that shiny white teeth are healthy teeth, and whitening the teeth provides some kind of benefit. This is certainly not the case.
Every tooth whitening product you find on store shelves contains some concentration of peroxide as the active ingredient. Some products have higher concentrations of peroxide than others. You can usually tell which products have the highest concentrations of peroxide without even reading the back of the box. These are the products that promise super white teeth in a very short period of time.These whitening creams, gels, and pastes often deliver on their promises, and your shiny white teeth come at a huge cost to your enamel.
Peroxide is a very strong ingredient. It penetrates your enamel to reach the interior of your tooth, bleaching extrinsic stains. This process is aggressive, and it permanently damages your enamel each time you use it. By the end of a full course of whitening treatments, your enamel is undoubtedly worse for wear.
Using the wrong toothpaste and the wrong toothbrush can have the same effect. If the toothpaste you’re using is highly abrasive and your toothbrush is very firm, they’re working in conjunction to scrub away more than surface stains or plaque. They’re scraping away the enamel from your teeth every time you brush.
Bacteria buildup and sugar consumption also weaken enamel. When bad bacteria build up in your mouth, they anchor themselves to your teeth with a sticky substance called a matrix. This matrix is an active and lively hangout for everything you don’t want in your mouth. Food sticks to it and bacteria breed in it.
You might have heard that sugar rots your teeth. This is true, but misleadingly so. It’s not the actual sugar rotting your teeth, but rather what the bacteria do with it. Sugar is their favorite food, and they’re eager to eat any source of sugar you put into your mouth. After they eat it, they excrete it. Their excrement is highly acidic, and it goes directly into the matrix they’ve created. The matrix traps the acid, concentrating it onto your teeth to cause weakened enamel and cavities.
Your diet also plays a role in the strength of your enamel. If you’re a big fan of acidic foods and drinks, you’re constantly damaging your enamel. As these foods and drinks wash over your teeth when you drink or chew, you’re hitting them with waves of acid over and over again. Even if there isn’t a speck of bad bacteria in your mouth, the acid is still enough to do significant damage.
Can Tooth Enamel Grow Back?
Tooth enamel cannot grow back. It isn’t like hair or nails, two substances your body constantly produces with dead cells and keratin. When your adult teeth fully emerge from your gums, they’re already enveloped in all the enamel you will ever have. Your teeth stop growing and changing. What you have is precious and non-renewable.
Although you cannot create more enamel, you can fortify the enamel you currently have. If your enamel hasn’t been damaged to the point of no return, you can provide your teeth with the minerals they need to strengthen the barrier created by your enamel and keep the inner layers of your tooth safe.
Why Avoid Fluoride?
Fluoride does have a wealth of benefits for your teeth. It’s proven to work in conjunction with other minerals to fortify your enamel and prevent cavities. There has never been any question as to whether or not fluoride successfully performs its intended function. The only question is whether or not fluoride can perform that function safely.
The majority of tests show that small amounts of fluoride are safe for consumption. They also show that large amounts of fluoride are dangerous for consumption. This leaves many people wondering how much is too much, especially since fluoride is added to the public water supply and naturally present in many of the things that we eat.
For this reason, many people choose to avoid adding more sources of fluoride to their everyday lives. When you have no idea how much of something you actually have, it can be impossible to tell if you’ve had too much until it’s too late.
What Are Teeth Made Of?
Human teeth are composed of several layers. The soft tissues and dentin exist within the tooth and are protected by your enamel. Enamel is the hardest substance created by the human body - even harder than bone. The biggest difference between enamel and bone is that bone tissue is living. Your body can readily repair and regrow living tissue.
Enamel is almost like a thick layer of bone paint, because it contains the same minerals that bone contains but with the absence of living tissue. The primary component of your enamel is calcium phosphate. Calcium and phosphate are both easy to encounter in your diet. They’re also popular active ingredients in remineralizing toothpastes.
Strengthening Teeth Through Your Diet
Obviously, everything that enters your body starts in your mouth. Acid foods can erode your teeth, and mineral rich foods can repair your teeth. Eating foods rich in calcium and phosphate can help to repair your teeth. The good news about calcium and phosphorus rich foods is that most of them are exceedingly healthy. We can all benefit from a healthier diet, and stronger teeth happen to be a positive consequence of switching up the way that we eat.
Phosphorus naturally occurs in beans, nuts, poultry, and fish. Although nuts and beans do supply an adequate amount of phosphorus, the body isn’t able to utilize it as efficiently as it can when ingested via fish or poultry. Fish and chicken are both lean, low calorie, nutrient rich sources of protein in addition to being excellent sources of phosphate.
Calcium comes from dairy products, soybeans, and leafy greens. Many fortified foods also contain calcium and vitamin D, a vitamin which helps to improve the body’s absorption of calcium. Vitamin D isn’t necessary for the calcium in your teeth - only for the calcium utilized by the soft tissue of your bones.
What is Remineralizing Your Teeth?
Remineralizing your teeth is the best way to topically strengthen your enamel without the use of fluoride. Remineralizing products, like toothpaste, contain small particles of things like calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. When these minerals are brushed into the teeth, they make their way into your enamel.
In order for these minerals to be effective, they require your mouth to be at an ideal PH. When your mouth is acidic, it’s eroding your teeth and preventing any reparative effects from taking place. That’s where natural ingredients like xylitol come into play. Xylitol works by protecting your teeth and restoring the ideal PH of your mouth.
Xylitol is a sweetener derived from plants. Unlike sweeteners that contain sugar, xylitol won’t provide adequate nourishment for bacteria. In fact, xylitol repels bacteria. The matrix they leave behind that attracts and holds debris cannot be deposited over xylitol, because xylitol leaves its own film behind. Since there’s nothing inherently harmful in xylitol, this film serves as a protective barrier.
Xylitol also turns an acid environment into an alkaline environment, helping your mouth achieve the ideal PH of 7. When the PH of your mouth is perfect, ingredients like calcium and phosphate can really work their magic. You can apply them directly to the teeth by brushing, and the remnants of the minerals remain in your saliva.
Your saliva continues to wash over your teeth after you brush. Every time saliva circulates your mouth, it’s delivering more of the minerals your teeth need and increasing exposure. Over time, the buildup on your teeth will be compromised mostly of the things your teeth actually need, ultimately strengthening your enamel.
While fluoride does provide excellent results, it’s not the only ingredient your teeth can use to build stronger enamel. Remineralizing toothpastes and a healthy diet will restore enamel damage, and with consistent practice, prevent further enamel damage. All you need to do is choose the right toothpaste and dedicate yourself to your oral care routine.
Source 1 - bacteria / sugar
Source 2 - how bone works
Source 3 - salivary PH