Teeth enamel has the highest mineral content of any tissue in the human body, according to Jennifer Jablow, DDS, a New York City-based dentist. "Ninety-six percent of enamel is composed of a calcium phosphate material called hydroxyapatite," she says. "Remineralizing teeth means you replace lost calcium phosphate material into the lattice structure of enamel that makes up the majority of its structure."
Many everyday habits chip away at the mineral content of your teeth, which in turn, means your enamel is being damaged. "Each of us are losing minerals in our teeth daily. If we eat or drink too many acidic things, such as orange juice, balsamic vinegar, or wine, and our saliva dips below the pH of 5.5, our teeth will lose minerals and become weaker." She also points out that certain heath conditions or medications can make your mouth dry as a side effect, which can lead to rapidly losing minerals in teeth. "We don't have the natural reservoir of calcium and our mouths become acidic when they're dry," says Dr. Jablow.
So why is this so important, and why should we all care? Teeth that aren't high in mineral content become more porous, which can lead to oral health problems. "Teeth are more susceptible to decay, fracture, and sensitivity," says Dr. Jablow. Though remineralizing teeth sounds like some kind of heavy-duty procedure, it quite simply means that you're increasing calcifying minerals and paying attention to the pH of your mouth, she says. "It's all about keeping your saliva's pH above neutral." To help the process, there are things to watch for in your diet and your oral hygiene routine.
How to remineralize your teeth
1. Alkalinize your diet: The first guideline for getting stronger, remineralized teeth is taking a look at what you eat, and aiming to fill your plate with alkaline foods. "Foods need to start alkaline in the mouth," says Dr. Jablow, which means eating acidic foods in moderation. "Lemons and fruit acids, for example, can start acidic in the mouth but alkalinize in the stomach and are harmful to your teeth," she says.
2. Eat foods rich in calcium: Dr. Jablow says that eating plenty of calcium-rich foods will also help strengthen tooth enamel. "These foods help make more calcium bioavailable in the saliva," she says. "This helps calcium be placed back into the tooth matrix, which is made of calcium and phosphate materials." So fill your plate with foods like white beans, kale, tofu, almonds, and figs.
3. Brush twice a day: There's a really high chance you're already doing this, but Dr. Jablow says that brushing your teeth twice a day is key for keeping your teeth mineral content strong. "Bacteria produces acid, which pulls minerals out of the teeth—that's how cavities are formed," she says. So keep at it.
4. Stay hydrated: Throughout the day, it helps your teeth (not to mention your overall health) if you stay hydrated—especially if you sip on alkaline water, says Dr. Jablow, who recommends Essentia water which has a high pH.
5. Use the right toothpaste: Dr. Jablow recommends using a toothpaste that has xylitol in it, and that has a neutral (or above-neutral) pH level. "Xylitol prevents demineralization by inhibiting the growth of streptococcus bacteria and reduces plaque by making it less sticky and easier to remove," she says. Her pick? Intelliwhite Cocobrite Toothpaste ($20), which has xylitol, calcium, and a neutral pH. She also recommends using a toothpaste with nano levels of hydroxyapatite, like Boka Ela Mint Toothpaste ($12). If the toothpaste that you're using has none of the above ingredients, Dr. Jablow advises to go with a fluoride paste. "Use one that is pH-neutral and free of parabens, dyes, and saccharin," she says.
7. Limit sugar: Besides being an inflammatory food, sugar leads to bacteria growth in your mouth—which isn't good for your teeth. "Bacteria in your mouth digests sugar and produces acid, which weakens tooth enamel," says Dr. Jablow, noting that eating sugar makes your saliva pH drop below 5.5. So keep your sugar intake minimal (sorry) and your teeth will thank you.
BTW, here's *when* to brush your teeth... because dentists don't want you to brush after eating certain foods. And here's what to know about using baking soda for teeth whitening, according to the pros.
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