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Remineralization of Teeth

Artificial remineralization?

Scientists are still working on ways to re-create natural remineralization, and in the not-too-distant-future, technologies for regrowing teeth themselves may even be realized [source: Madrigal]. In the meantime, however, most methods of remineralizing teeth involve enhancing the natural process. Some of these mineral regrowth boosters include:

  • Chewing gum -- Exercising the teeth and jaws by chewing on a piece of sugarless gum after eating increases saliva flow in the mouth and helps speed up the process of washing away acid and swishing around the good stuff in saliva: calcium and phosphates. About 20 minutes of gum chewing helps measurably, and some types of gum now contain agents to help specifically with remineralizing, too [source: ADA].
  • Fluoride -- Topical applications of fluoride in toothpastes and mouth rinses, as well as in dentist office treatments, increase the protective power of enamel against demineralization and have been shown to even increase remineralization.
  • CPP-ACP -- Casein phosphopeptides-amorphous calcium phosphate (CPP-ACP) is a chemical compound made up in part of milk proteins. CPP-ACP has the ability to penetrate enamel at the right time to aid in remineralization of teeth. It delivers the calcium phosphates when and where needed.

These three types of products help with remineralization individually or when used together. CPP-ACP, for instance, is used in chewing gums, toothpastes, rinses, dental work compounds (such as those used for filling cavities) and even in milk products.

As with practicing good oral hygiene to prevent tooth and gum problems before they begin, most artificial remineralizing efforts will work best before significant demineralization occurs. Enamel can't be regrown -- yet -- but it can heal itself in moderation if it isn't overwhelmed by bacteria. As much as products can help improve the natural process of remineralization, they can't get very far if damage and wear has turned to decay.

Remineralization can be a lifelong, balanced process with some early intervention and regular maintenance. We'll look remineralization from childhood to old age, next.