Demineralisation makes tooth enamel vulnerable to wear
During and following eating and drinking, our teeth receive an acid wash which leaches minerals from tooth enamel. This everyday process is known as demineralisation. The acids come from our choice of food and drink, but also from the activity of bacteria in plaque after we eat and drink. See our post on acidic foods.
A day in the life of tooth enamel
Tooth enamel has a more active existence than many people realise. The mineral content and formation deteriorate and recover with every meal. The mineral structure is broken down in the presence of acids, and then restored from minerals naturally present in saliva.
Tooth enamel – the hardest tissue in the human body – consists of calcium and phosphate arranged in a crystal lattice.The action of acids in the mouth draw minerals from the crystalline structure. Around 20 minutes after eating, calcium and phosphates contained in healthy saliva begin to replace what was lost, restoring the lattice and strengthening the enamel.
This process is known as remineralisation.
Tooth enamel, snacking or grazing and brushing after eating
Understanding the life of tooth enamel explains why your dentist doesn’t like you to snack slowly on sweets over prolonged periods. OR even sip soft drinks or juices throughout the day. These habits expose the teeth to further acid washes before remineralisation is complete. Dentists recommend sweets and ‘sodas’ are consumed as part of a meal.
What if I brush straight after my bag of sweets?
Most of us know that dentists aren’t fond of too many sweets. It’s natural to wonder if we can indulge and then quickly clean our teeth.
Vigorous brushing (especially with a medium or firm-bristled brush) and poor technique can be abrasive to weakened (demineralised) enamel. Dentists recommend rinsing with or having a drink of water and waiting up to an hour before brushing.