At a Glance
- Oral care, diet and lifestyle can all have a huge impact on the health of our teeth.
- While some people didn’t think it possible for tooth decay to be reversed, research indicates that it’s possible for teeth to heal themselves given the right environment and nutrients.
- Remineralizing your teeth may require some drastic changes to your diet, and a focus on healthy, wholesome foods.
There are things that have to be done in life, like working, cleaning, cooking, the annual spring clean. For the most part, I just get on with what needs to be done, but the biggest chore in my life is going to the dentist.
I can put it down to a couple of bad experiences, like my mother’s huge bear-of-a-man dentist. I was petrified of him and his big booming voice, so I wouldn’t open my mouth for him. His response? To turn me upside down and make me scream. Not the best plan—I refused to ever go and see him again!
Thankfully, I now have a lovely dentist who’s very gentle and caring and looks after my teeth very well. But I still can’t get over the feeling of not wanting to go and see him, so if there’s anything that I can do to look after my teeth and keep them in good condition, I’m on it immediately.
We know all the normal stuff, like brushing and flossing, etc. I do all of this on a regular basis to minimise my dental appointments. So when I heard that it might be possible to remineralize your teeth, I was immediately very interested, and wanted to find out more.
Here’s what I discovered…
All About Teeth
Teeth are made up of several layers of different materials. The outer layer is enamel, which is the hardest substance in the body. Enamel is made of several different minerals, including calcium phosphate. Underneath the enamel is a layer of dentin, a bone-like substance which is made of living cells.
While enamel is a solid structure, dentin contains tiny tubules which, if the dentin is exposed through a lack of enamel, can make the tooth susceptible to bacteria which can cause cavities and sensitive teeth.
At the heart of a tooth, inside the dentin is the pulp cavity which is the living thing in a structure of the tooth containing blood vessels and nerves to keep the tooth alive.
The top part of the tooth that we can see above the gum line is known as the crown. The lower portion, embedded in the gum and cemented to the jawbone, is the root.
This video gives a great explanation of tooth anatomy in a little more detail:
How Does Diet Affect Dental Health?
Diet has been proven to have a huge impact on dental health. It’s long been established that a deficiency of some nutrients, such as vitamin D, not only causes rickets, but also adversely affects the teeth.
Studies show that dental caries, or tooth decay, is primarily caused by the action of bacteria, our teeth in the presence of sugar. However, research indicates that the extent of the damage caused to the tooth is influenced by the susceptibility of teeth to damage and the quality and quantity of saliva produced.
In epidemiological studies, researchers have found very low levels of dental caries in communities of people with basic and traditional lifestyles and diets based on whole foods and low sugar consumption, despite the lack of access to regular, professional dental care.
Studies also suggest that as the amount of sugars and fermentable carbohydrates in the diet increases, so does the incidence of dental caries.
Current medical opinion is that the health of our teeth is affected by diet in three ways. Firstly, an inadequate supply of the minerals our teeth need results in weaker teeth which are more prone to decay and infection.
The second dietary factor that affects teeth is the amount of fat soluble vitamins available.
Lastly, experts have highlighted the importance of bioavailability. This is concerned with the abundance (or lack) of nutrients combined with the ability of the body to absorb and use them.
Scientists have found that bioavailability is heavily influenced by a substance called phytic acid, and by the quantity of sugar in the diet.
What is Phytic Acid?
Phytic acid is the main substance created by plants to store the mineral phosphorus. It’s mainly found in grains, nuts, legumes and seeds. Experts have noted a higher proportion of phytic acid in foods due to the use of phosphorus-rich fertilizers and other farming practices.
The problem with phytic acid is that in the same way it stores phosphorus, it’s also very good at storing other minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper and iron.
Phytic acid holds onto these minerals very strongly, which means they can’t be used by the body for the thousands of different metabolic functions carried out by the body every day. It also inhibits the absorption of calcium and iron as well as draining minerals from the bones and teeth.
Another problem with phytic acid is that it decreases the production of some important digestive enzymes, like trypsin, pepsin and amylase. These are necessary for the body to break down starch into simple sugars, and proteins into amino acids to use for cell and other body tissue repair, making new cells.
Amino acids also support many different metabolic and nervous system functions and some provide protection against many serious health conditions, so high levels of phytic acid have a negative impact on the whole body, not just on the teeth.
What Nutrients Do Teeth Need?
Many of the nutrients in our diet are needed to develop and maintain healthy teeth. Here’s an explanation of the vitamins and minerals which are needed by our teeth need and why:
Found in sweet potatoes, bell peppers, carrots and leafy green vegetables, is essential for producing saliva, and helping to maintain the mucous membrane coatings of your gums and cheeks.
Vitamin A is also vital in the cleaning the mouth and teeth and disposing of potentially harmful bacteria and food particles from between the teeth.
Vitamins B2 and B3
Both help to avoid inflammation in all tissues in the body, including the gums. These vitamins can be sourced from poultry and red meat, leafy green vegetables, legumes, almonds and dairy products
An important mineral throughout the body. Lack of vitamin C, which we get from sweet potatoes, bell peppers, citrus fruit, berries, kale and broccoli, can cause bleeding gums and loose teeth.
Another vitamin that’s incredibly important for the health of your teeth. Clinical research demonstrates that vitamin D, found in eggs, milk, fortified breakfast cereals and oily fish, facilitates the absorption of calcium. A lack of vitamin D predisposes us to calcium deficiency
The most widely known mineral associated with dental health. Found in dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt, plus leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale, some beans and oily fish.
Calcium is vital for the transmission of nerve impulses, and when it’s in short supply, the body takes calcium from the bones, including the jawbone.
Strong bone tissue in the jaw is needed to support the teeth, which is why a lack of calcium can lead to increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Research studies have proven that calcium ions need to be associated with phosphorus ions before they can be absorbed by the body. When taking calcium supplements it’s important to remember that not many of them contain phosphorus
To benefit from calcium supplements you need to make sure to include lots of phosphorus-rich foods in your diet, such as dairy produce, red meat, nuts, lentils, beans and whole grains
Found in red meats, liver, poultry, fish, beans, peas and lentils as well as spirulina, spinach and dark chocolate. Iron is very important in immune system function to help fight against infection.
Insufficient iron has serious implications for many body functions, including the delivery of oxygen to all cells, particularly those in the teeth and can result in mouth sores, gum disease and bacterial infections
Many other minerals, such as potassium, zinc and iodine also play a role in dental health by preventing the breakdown of bony tissue, helping the blood to clot more effectively in the event of a bleed and facilitating the absorption of calcium.
There’s been lots of talk about fluoride, and whether it’s good or bad for you. The debate about fluoride is concerned with whether or not it should be added to water supplies as a mass medication measure, as too much fluoride can be toxic.
When it comes down to what it can do to help improve dental health, research has shown that fluoride applied topically to the teeth, through the use of fluoride toothpaste can tackle the problem of tooth decay. Other fluoride dental treatments can help to reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease too.
Fluoride has also been proven to decrease the demineralization of teeth and is important in the remineralization process.
Can You Remineralize Your Teeth?
If, like many of us, a busy lifestyle gets in the way of providing your body with a regular balanced diet, it’s entirely possible that your teeth are lacking the nutrients they need.
But is there anything that we can do to improve the health of our teeth? According to experts, it’s entirely possible to increase the mineral content of your teeth.
Research indicates that the dental pulp, which contains cells called odontoblasts, is capable of building a substance called secondary dentin, provided that the odontoblasts are supplied with the correct nutrition.
In one clinical trial, children were separated into three groups and followed one of three different diets for six months. The research found that a normal diet plus oatmeal, which is rich in phytic acid was associated with low levels of healing in dental caries which was already present and high levels of the formation of new tooth decay.
The second group was assigned to a normal diet plus vitamin D, which was found to stimulate a high level of healing in teeth at the beginning of the study and a reduced level of new tooth decay.
Group three followed a grain-free diet and a vitamin D supplement. Researchers observed the lowest levels of new tooth decay formation and the highest levels of healing of dental caries already present.
So the scientific evidence tells us that yes, with the right diet you can remineralize your teeth.
How to Remineralize Teeth
So now we know that diet has a huge impact on dental health, we need to come up with some ideas about what kind of dietary changes will help to improve the health of our teeth and promote remineralization. In addition, there’s scientific evidence to suggest other lifestyle factors also have an impact on dental health.
Limit Sources of Phytic Acid
The ideal situation might be to eliminate all phytic acid from the diet, but in practice this would be extremely difficult for most people. As the phytic acid content is much higher in crops and other food sources treated with fertilizers high in phosphates, going organic can dramatically reduce the levels of phytic acid consumed.
The foods that contain the highest levels of phytic acid are:
- Sesame seed flour .
- Brazil nuts.
- Pinto beans.
- Soy protein.
Levels of phytic acid in foods can be reduced by, for example, soaking, sprouting or fermenting foods before they’re consumed.
Nuts, for example, have greatly reduced levels of phytic acid having been soaked in water with lemon and/or salt added. Grains and beans can also be soaked and sprouted, or fermented, as shown on this video.
Limit Starchy and Sugary Foods
Foods that are rich in starch and other sugars give the bacteria that cause tooth decay the food source they need to live and reproduce. Not only this, but sugar is also acidic, which can increase the amount of tooth decay.
Steer clear of sugary drinks like soda, and bear in mind even natural fruit and fruit juices contain sugar. As it’s loaded with sugar, candy goes without saying, but don’t forget to monitor baked goods, which can also be high in simple sugars as well as the more complex, starchy sugar compounds.
Honey might be good for you, but it’s also high in sugar, so use sparingly; the same goes for maple syrup. As far as sugar replacements go, artificial sweeteners aren’t without their health risks, so one of the best options to choose is stevia, a refined natural plant extract.
Eat Raw Dairy Fats and Other Healthy Fats Regularly
Raw dairy products, such as raw milk, raw milk kefir, raw cheeses and organic butter are packed full of the nutrients teeth need to be able to remineralize and heal themselves of decay.
This food group contains foods which are generally high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin K and vitamin D, as well as many other macronutrients. This means eating from this food group regularly is extremely important in the remineralization of teeth.
Other healthy fats include coconut oil, olives and olive oil, avocado and oily fish. They also provide lots of the necessary nutrients for healthy teeth, so including these regularly in your diet will also help the remineralization process along nicely!
Soak Up Some Sun
Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced by the skin when we’re exposed to sunlight. It’s the UVB rays in sunlight that are involved in the production of vitamin D.
When UVB rays make contact with the skin, it triggers a chemical reaction which converts a naturally occurring type of cholesterol in the skin to vitamin D.
Ideally, we should get over 90 percent of our vitamin D from exposure to the sun. It’s difficult to say exactly how much sunlight we need because vitamin D synthesis from sunlight is drastically affected by the season, time of day, location, altitude, amount of air pollution, the pigmentation of our skin and many other factors.
Some studies recommend five to 30 minutes of sun exposure to unprotected skin on the face arms and legs between 10am and 3pm for a minimum of three times a week is enough to produce adequate supplies of vitamin D.
Avoid All Processed Foods
Although you could argue that even organic butter, since it goes through a churning process is technically a processed food, what we’re really talking about here are the foods which are produced using a heavily manufactured process.
There ‘ a massive difference between mechanical processing, such as grinding beef, and chemical processing. Foods that are stripped of many of their natural components and nutrients, made entirely from ingredients that have been refined, or have artificial added ingredients have long been highlighted as a dietary concern.
It’s far more healthy for your entire body, including your teeth, to absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from natural food sources. This means ditching all manufactured food products, including fast food in favour of good wholesome home cooked produce if you really want to get serious about remineralizing your teeth.
Having just mentioned that it’s best to source nutrients from whole foods, it might seem strange to move onto supplements. I stand by what I said—it’s best to eat wholesome natural foods.
There are however some circumstances when we just don’t get what we need from our diets. It could be the case that someone with lactose intolerance struggles to find dairy-free alternatives which provide them with the nutrients they need.
You might genuinely want to include a specific food in your diet, but having tried every recipe you can possibly find on the internet, you just can’t face that particular food —a bit like spirulina for me.
Whatever the reason, if you know you’re not getting enough of a specific food group or nutrient, it’s much better to supplement your diet than to go without.
Use a Remineralizing Toothpaste
Although they tend to be quite expensive, there are several different brands of remineralizing toothpastes available on the market—from the big brands down to products from smaller, organic producers.
If you like the idea of making your own remineralizing toothpaste, there are lots of different recipes around which are largely based on coconut oil, but incorporate various different ingredients. This can be a real money-saving option for those on a budget, and a great idea for those who want to know exactly what they’re putting on their teeth.
Good Daily Practice for Teeth
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), one of the most important things you can do to help maintain the health of your teeth is to brush twice a day for two minutes with good technique using fluoride toothpaste.
Good brushing technique consists of holding the brush at a 45 degree angle against the gum and sweeping or rolling the brush away from the gumline. Use this technique on all the surfaces of all your teeth, then give your tongue a soft brushing to remove bacteria.
Flossing should be done once a day. Use an 18-inch length of floss and use a 2-to-3-inch section in the middle to work between your teeth, making sure you follow the curves of your teeth and get right in around the gums.
We know that our diet and lifestyle choices can have a huge impact, not only on our general health, but also on the health of our teeth. Eating lots of sugary and starchy foods for example, or drinking lots of sugar-laden drinks is likely to result in lots of tooth decay and cavities.
We also now know that it’s perfectly possible to reverse the damage caused to our teeth and encourage remineralization by taking good care of our teeth on a daily basis, and by choosing to provide teeth with fewer substances that harm them and more of the substances that heal them.
It seems that phytic acid is guilty of adversely affecting our teeth in many different ways. It holds on to minerals which are needed by our teeth, as well as inhibiting some of the enzymes which are important for tissue repair. In addition, phytic acid also prevents the absorption of key minerals such as calcium and iron, and effectively steals minerals from our bones and teeth.
Decreasing the amount of phytic acid in our body is likely to have a huge positive effect on the health of our teeth as well as the rest of the body, and can dramatically improve the results of remineralizing your teeth.
Other dietary changes which encourage teeth remineralization include avoiding sugary, starchy and processed foods in favour of a natural whole food diet which supply the vitamins and minerals needed by the teeth.
Dietary changes can be supported by lifestyle changes, such as using a remineralizing toothpaste. It may seem that the changes needed to bring about tooth remineralization are quite extreme for a lot of people. However, even those reluctant to visit the dentist need to look after the only set of adult teeth we’re given, I’m off to the kitchen to soak some beans right this minute!