Dr. Thomas Lokensgard

Can Mouthwash Restore Tooth Enamel?

You see the advertisements every day. On the television, countless toothpaste and mouthwash products are marketed as restorative or capable of repairing damaged tooth enamel. When you walk down the aisle with toothpaste, you would be hard-pressed not to find a product with “enamel repair” emblazoned on the box. All of this marketing leads to one fundamental question; are “restoring” products such as toothpaste or mouthwash able to restore damaged or eroded enamel. 

From the time you began going to the dentist, you were told that once the enamel on your teeth is gone, it cannot be restored or “brought back.” Sadly, this is true. In this case, what is lost cannot be brought back. So, if the enamel cannot be restored, what is the purpose of the restoring products on the market?

What is tooth enamel?

Your teeth are covered with a thin outer covering called enamel. Enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body but is still capable of being weakened and damaged. Enamel is not the white part of your tooth but a transparent covering that you cannot see. When your teeth appear yellow or discolored, it is the enamel that is showing signs of staining. Often, the discoloration can be remedied through various procedures; however, damage to the enamel is a different story. 

The reason your teeth have an enamel coating is for protection. The enamel protects your teeth from damage due to everyday activities such as chewing, crunching, biting, and grinding. Without enamel, the dentin (the white portion of the tooth) would be damaged. Enamel protects your teeth from hot and cold temperature swings, so you can eat ice cream or drink hot tea without experiencing pain or discomfort.

How does tooth enamel erosion occur?

Erosion of tooth enamel occurs when acids wear away the enamel coating. There are various acidic components of the diet that cause decay. Additionally, certain medical conditions and medications can cause erosion, as well. Below is a small list of erosion causing factors to consider preventing or avoiding, if possible:

  • Soft drinks (e.g.,) soda: These beverages contain high levels of phosphoric and citric acids
  • Fruity drinks: Some acids in fruit drinks are more erosive than battery acid
  • Dry mouth or low salivary flow (xerostomia): This inhibits the ability of the mouth to “wash away” the acids consumed in food or drinks. 
  • Diet: Many foods are high in sugar and starches which contain eroding acids
  • Acid reflux disease (GERD)
  • Gastrointestinal medical conditions
  • Other medical conditions involving frequent voluntary or involuntary vomiting
  • Medications such as aspirin and antihistamines
  • Genetics as we may inherit medical conditions that cause our bodies to be more prone to erosion
  • Environmental factors may result in friction, wear and tear, stress, and corrosion. For example, we may grind our teeth when sleeping if we are stressed or anxious.

Does plaque buildup cause tooth enamel loss?

Plaque is the white, sticky film that can be found on the surface of your teeth, and surrounds the gum line. Plaque is the film your dentist will take the time to remove at your cleaning. Plaque is made up of food particles, bacteria, saliva, and other substances. Plaque can also make its way into the holes or pits in your molars or cavities in your teeth. Sometimes the bacteria in plaque can contribute to acid buildup in your mouth by changing the starches in the food you eat into acids. When this happens, the acids in the plaque start to wear away the enamel on your teeth.

What are the early signs of eroded enamel? 

Since enamel is clear, it cannot be distinguished from the white portion of your tooth. Thus, it can be challenging to determine the health of your tooth enamel. The visible signs of enamel erosion can vary depending on the stage or severity of the erosion. Some signs of enamel damage may include:

  • Sensitivity: You may experience slight pain when consuming sweets, cold food, or hot food. Visit your dentist if you experience such symptoms, as this may suggest an early stage of enamel erosion. This painful sensitivity will increase as the enamel erosion progresses.
  • Discoloration: As the enamel erodes your teeth and increased dentin is exposed, your teeth may increasingly appear yellow and discolored.
  • Cracks and chips: Be alert if the edges of your teeth become rougher, more irregular, and increasingly jagged.
  • Cupping: Vist your dentist if you observe indentations on the surface of your teeth.

Do teeth rebuild and repair enamel? 

In short, no- teeth cannot rebuild enamel once it is lost. The body is capable of restoring or healing many damaged things from bone to tissue, but that is possible because the damage is to living tissue. Enamel is not living tissue, so it cannot be naturally regenerated. Unfortunately, to date, it cannot be grown or applied artificially either, even with the toothpastes and mouthwashes marketed to do so.

How can you prevent tooth enamel loss?

Regular dental care and routine brushing, flossing, and rinsing with a fluoride-containing mouthwash are critical in preventing enamel loss. Consider the following technique to help you avoid enamel tooth loss:

  • Eliminate highly acidic foods and carbonated beverages. If you do intake sodas, lemons, or other such citrus fruits, then be sure to rinse your mouth with pure water immediately. 
  • If you do drink acidic beverages, then be sure to use a straw. The straw helps to prevent discoloration of your enamel by forcing liquid beyond the forward-facing portion of your teeth and reducing the chance of staining. 
  • Monitor your snacking habits and try to avoid snacking throughout the day if you will not be able to rinse your mouth and brush your teeth immediately. 
  • If you feel the desire to chew gum, then ensure you select sugar-free gum with xylitol, so that you may reduce your intake of acids that can be found in beverages and foods. 
  • Stay hydrated and drink more water throughout the day to increase your saliva volume and to avoid a dry mouth.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste to strengthen your healthy teeth.

Can mouthwash or toothpaste rebuild and restore tooth enamel? 

You cannot regrow lost enamel, but what you can do is remineralize the enamel. This is how the enamel repair products work. They aid in the process of remineralization, which introduces calcium and minerals called phosphates back into the tooth. The minerals adhere to the enamel, virtually strengthening and patching the weak spots in the tooth’s natural enamel coating. Oral hygiene products that contain calcium phosphate are beneficial to you enamel, as are those with the mineral fluoride, especially stannous fluoride. 

It is a daily cycle to loose and replace minerals in your teeth. Calcium naturally found in saliva can be enough to make small repairs. Still, as noted above, your diet or other issues can inhibit the ability of saliva to do its job. Additionally, enamel is attacked with you eat or drink acidic foods. Because they strengthen enamel, restoring kinds of toothpaste or mouthwashes can help prevent tooth decay, but they will not “regenerate” or “restore” lost enamel. The ability of the toothpaste or mouthwash to help with enamel strength goes hand in hand with proper oral care habits and good dietary habits.

The best way to avoid enamel loss and damage is to exercise preventative measures and follow a good oral health routine. While mouthwashes or toothpastes can provide some remineralization benefits, there are also supplements and holistic treatments that can increase the strength of your teeth. Your dentist can guide you in your decision-making process and help you to determine what works best for you. Many people are turning to Silidyn for teeth and bone health. Contact Holistic Dentistry today to learn more about how Silidyn could help you strengthen your teeth enamel. 

Links for articles used in this post:

https://now.tufts.edu/articles/restoring-toothpastes-mouthwashes
https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/tooth-enamel-erosion-restoration#1
https://www.healthline.com/health
https://www.dentalhealth.org/dental-erosionmel-erosion
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Dr. Thomas Lokensgard