Tooth enamel is a finite resource. Your teeth are made with a certain amount of enamel that is supposed to last you a lifetime. Due to the diet and lifestyle of the average person, enamel rarely lasts for as long as it’s supposed to. Enamel should be constantly supplied with the things it needs to repair itself in order to avoid breakdown that will leave enamel to the point of no return.
Unless your teeth are in critical condition, enamel strengthening is something you can do naturally at home. There are plenty of ingredients and minerals you can use to make your teeth stronger and keep them that way.
What Contributes to Enamel Loss?
Some people are surprised to learn that they’re breaking down their enamel by aggressively taking care of their teeth. When you want a pearly white smile, you probably search for things like whitening toothpastes or antiplaque toothpastes. You might be using a firm bristled toothbrush to work them into your teeth.
Firm bristled brushes apply an unnecessary amount of pressure. They can irritate the gums and essentially exfoliate the surface of the teeth, wearing enamel away through vigorous scrubbing motions applied with significant pressure. Soft bristled toothbrushes are safer for your teeth and gums - not to mention more comfortable to use.
Many anti plaque or tartar control toothpastes market themselves as such because they’re highly abrasive. The idea is that the gritty ingredients in the toothpaste act as a scouring agent, making it easier to scrub away built on plaque or deep set stains. This philosophy is fine for your bathroom tile, but it certainly doesn’t apply to your teeth.
Highly abrasive toothpastes cause more damage. They may remove some plaque, but they’ll remove the enamel around the plaque buildup first. The end result is weaker teeth that are more susceptible to damage, making you worse off than you were before. The best way to prevent plaque is to floss nightly and brush twice a day for two minutes each time. Gentle toothpastes without excessively abrasive ingredients will get the job done, provided they’re used regularly and correctly.
Whitening toothpastes can be just as harmful as abrasive toothpastes, but for a different reason. Whitening pastes usually contain ingredients like peroxide. Peroxide is slightly corrosive. It works by penetrating surfaces to trap pigments and stains, oxidizing them away and leaving behind a shiny white surface.
While the end result sounds wonderful, peroxide cannot perform its whitening action unless it penetrates your tooth enamel. It is an inherently damaging ingredient. While whitening toothpastes often cause less damage than at-home whitening strips, pens, or trays, the damage can still accumulate over time.
Most enamel weakening happens as a natural result of our diet. Foods and drinks that are acidic or sugary will lead to loss of enamel. Acids, like orange juice or ketchup, will naturally eat away at enamel over time.
Sugary foods don’t wear away your enamel on their own. Instead, they’re eaten by the bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria digest the sugar and expel a highly acidic byproduct that eats away at your teeth, leaving cavities and porous spots in your enamel.
How Can I Tell If My Enamel is Weak?
Most people notice their enamel is weak because they develop tooth sensitivity. Your enamel insulates and protects the sensitive interior of the tooth. When your enamel is thin or porous, the interior components of your tooth are exposed to the things you eat and drink. Acidic foods and drinks may begin to bother you. You might develop temperature sensitivity to any food or drink that isn’t room temperature.
When enamel is weak, teeth begin to erode around the edges. Teeth are meant to be straight across the bottom, forming a square shape. If the edges of your teeth are becoming rounded, this is a sign that they’ve begun to erode.
Transparent or yellow teeth will also tell you a lot about the state of your enamel. Healthy enamel is a slightly off-white color. If it appears that your teeth have a semi-translucent glaze, this means your enamel is wearing away. If you stand in front of a mirror, turn off the light, and shine a flashlight in your mouth, you might be able to see translucent areas on your teeth a little better.
You may be able to see some intrinsic yellow within your teeth. This is because your dentin, the material behind your enamel, is naturally a yellowish hue. If your teeth are yellow and surface stains aren’t an apparent cause, it may be because your enamel has thinned enough to allow your dentin to show through.
Changing Your Diet to Support Healthy Enamel
Even if you use the best products in the world to restore your enamel, you won’t be able to fully appreciate the results if you’re constantly delaying or undoing them by way of a bad diet. Be mindful of the things you eat and drink, particularly if they’re acidic or sugary. If you desperately need a sugary or acidic snack, save it for your very last bite of the day. It will have less time to sit and damage your teeth before your nighttime brushing.
Healthy teeth start from the inside out. Keeping your teeth strong involves incorporating minerals your body needs into your diet. Vitamins A, C, and K all play vital roles in the health of your gums. Calcium and phosphorus work together to form the building blocks of your teeth and bones.
Calcium is present in dairy products. Phosphorus is present in poultry and fish. Vitamins A, C, and K are abundant in leafy green vegetables. Try making yourself some grilled chicken salads with low fat cheese for lunch. They’re delicious, healthy, and wonderful for your teeth and bones.
Is Fluoride Natural?
When most people think about strengthening their enamel, they think about fluoride. Most dentists wholeheartedly recommend fluoridated toothpastes or mouthwashes for optimal oral health. Fluoride works in conjunction with calcium and phosphorus to form a hard crystalline substance called fluorapatite. When you use fluoride, fluorapatite will form within the weakened parts of your enamel, restoring their strength and preventing cavities.
Fluoride is natural. It’s a derivative of the element fluorine, which is number 9 on the periodic table. It’s one of the most abundant materials in the earth’s crust. It naturally occurs all throughout the ground and in most bodies of water. It’s transferred from the soil into plants, including herbs, vegetables, and fruits that we eat.
While small amounts of fluoride are considered safe, it can be hard to monitor fluoride intake. Fluoride is added to the public water supply, and there are trace amounts of fluoride in almost everything we eat and drink. Fluoride can be detrimental to your health in large amounts, which is why many people choose to avoid dental products with added fluoride. Since it’s virtually impossible to monitor the amount of fluoride we get in a day, some people prefer to avoid large doses in situations where they have a choice.
What Are Some Effective Alternatives to Fluoride?
Fluoride isn’t the only natural ingredient that can be used to remineralize your teeth. Your teeth can use any source of calcium and phosphorus to repair your enamel. When the PH of your mouth is dialed in perfectly, your saliva can utilize calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and other trace bone fortifying minerals to fortify your teeth.
Ingredients like xylitol, a natural sweetener with anticavity properties, can help restore the PH level in your mouth. The remineralizing agents in your toothpaste are able to get right to work. You scrub them into your teeth, and your saliva washes the excess minerals remaining in your mouth over your teeth. They’re constantly being fortified when the oral environment is ideal.
Xylitol also works by establishing a healthy film over your teeth that bacteria can’t stick to. Preventing bacterial erosion while restoring the minerals to your teeth is the perfect two-for-one scenario. It’s hard to beat the benefits of a remineralizing toothpaste that contains xylitol.
It’s important to remember that using a special toothpaste won’t solve all of your problems. You need to be flossing, using mouthwash or oil pulling, and brushing twice a day. Switch to a soft bristled brush and dental products designed for a sensitive mouth to avoid discomfort while you’re caring for your teeth.
You need to make smart decisions about what you eat and drink, and you need to schedule a checkup with your dentist at least twice a year. Oral care is an ongoing process with no quick fix, and it’s part of an overall healthy lifestyle.
If your eroded enamel is causing you pain or if you see visible cracks in your teeth, no enamel strengthening product is a replacement for proper dental care. You may be in need of crowns or fillings, and waiting too long can cause extensive damage, infection, or tooth loss.
Source 1 - gentle abrasives study
Source 2 - acidic foods
Source 3 - fluoride explainer