As we continue to search for ways to preserve our teeth, the new weapons in preventative dentistry are products that help replenish minerals found in teeth.
We continually lose and gain minerals in our teeth. Plaque acids created by food and bacteria, dissolve minerals. At the same time saliva, which contains calcium and phosphorous, replaces them.
Tooth decay will occur when this natural cycle is disrupted by conditions such as poor oral hygiene, poor diet, medications or illnesses that decrease saliva flow. However, a growing body of research indicates that early decay (defined as when a potential cavity is just a spot of demineralized enamel or a white spot on the tooth) can be reversed, or repaired, by putting minerals back into the teeth.
Dental researchers have long known that fluoride provides remineralization benefits by capturing the natural calcium and phosphate present in saliva. However, they feel that our modern diet of too much sugar and soda is more than our natural levels of calcium and phosphorous can handle. Researchers are looking for ways to enhance the efficiency of fluoride by increasing the amount of calcium and phosphorous in saliva.
A variety of researchers have either introduced or are developing products to help teeth absorb more calcium and phosphorous, thus strengthening them to prevent decay and reverse early decay.
A company called Enamelon released a toothpaste, by that same name, which contains calcium, phosphorous and fluoride. Warner-Lambert now sells Trident Advantage chewing gum with remineralization ingredients. Inpharma, of Massachusetts, has developed a mouthwash called Caphosol. Ortek Therapeutics has licensing rights to Cavistat, a remineralizing agent that contains both the amino acid argine, to help eliminate plaque acids, and calcium. They plan to add Cavistat to toothpaste within two years.
The research is not over and all has not been smooth sailing. Trident had to repackage its gum to better inform consumers that it contains a dairy-based ingredient and therefore is not safe for people with milk allergies. Although Enamelon has been found to be seven times more effective than regular toothpaste, it has to compete with market brand loyalty. All the products must overcome skepticism from a market population that generally believes once a cavity starts the only option is a filling.
Remineralization appears to be a positive adjunct to our preventative arsenal. Keep in mind though, it does have its limits. It is most effective on the smooth surfaces and can only reverse decay in its earliest stages.I will keep you informed of ongoing research in this area.