An Overview of Tooth Decalcification

Decalcification, in general, refers to the reduction and eventual elimination of critical minerals from calcified structures in your body. The most common parts of the body that suffer decalcification are your bones, cartilage, and teeth. This process is often subtle, gradual, and can affect anyone. 

Decalcification is sometimes an intentional procedure used to soften tissue, but it is not good for your teeth. To stop tooth decalcification, you’ll need to understand what is happening to your teeth and why it is happening.

What Is Tooth Decalcification?

Take a look at your teeth in the mirror. Do you notice any white spots on them? Or perhaps you’ve seen little white spots on your children’s teeth. These spots are caused by decalcification. Tooth decalcification means that the vital minerals needed to keep teeth healthy and repair themselves are being stripped away for one reason or another.

The enamel that protects your teeth from daily wear and tear consists of several different minerals, most notably calcium and phosphorus. The onset of decalcification will weaken the enamel of your teeth — producing a series of white spots. You may be doing several things to contribute to the decalcification of your teeth. If the cause of decalcification is not pinpointed and stopped, this process can become worse and worse — leading to cavities and tooth decay if left untreated.

Tooth Decalcification Causes

There are several common ways decalcification can affect your teeth. Some factors include the concentration of plaque (and decalcifying agents), temperature and types of food and drink, and the continual agitation/scraping of teeth. If you notice signs of decalcification (white spots on your teeth), you must first determine the cause(s) to understand how to reduce or stop it. Determine whether any of the following reasons for tooth decalcification are affecting you:

  • Braces: Braces are great for aligning your teeth, but may cause unwanted side effects. Once someone gets their braces taken off, they may notice white spots on their teeth. This is because plaque, many times unseen, can amass around and under braces. It can stay there for some time, slowly decalcifying the teeth.
  • Diet: Continually eating sugary and acidic foods (and not practicing proper dental hygiene) can gradually remove the minerals your teeth need to repair and mend themselves. 
  • Poor Dental Hygiene: Regular brushing and flossing should be a priority to keep the plaque that causes decalcification at a minimum and wash away decalcifying agents that tend to stay on your teeth when you eat and drink. If you fail to practice good dental hygiene, this food and drink will stay on your teeth, causing the enamel to deteriorate, bit by bit.
  • Lack of Professional Oral Intervention: Regularly scheduled cleanings with your dentist can keep plaque at bay. Your orthodontist should know how to apply braces correctly, detect if decalcification is occurring, and perform other specialized dentistry to reduce your teeth decalcification.

How to Avoid Decalcification

There are two main things you can do to prevent and/or stop the decalcification of your teeth:

Avoid Decalcifying Agents

Naturally, what you eat comes in direct contact with your teeth and may get stuck there. What’s worse, many of these foods may include decalcifying agents. Look to reduce your intake of acidic and sugary food and drinks and high-temperature beverages. This might include soda, juices, junk food, and citrus fruits. 

Proper Dental Hygiene

Practicing regular dental hygiene can help combat decalcification. Proper oral health includes brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing, and making visits to your dentist and/or orthodontist a part of your routine doctor appointments. By continually seeing these oral professionals, you can stay ahead of many dental-related ailments, including decalcification. Also, it is a good idea to teach personal hygiene to your children to get them to reduce the risk of decalcification at an early age.

Can You Reverse Decalcification?

If you find that you are experiencing tooth decalcification, there is little you can do to get rid of white spots — they are, usually, permanent. However, you can decrease decalcification significantly by practicing good oral hygiene and visiting your oral health professional regularly. 

There are cosmetic solutions to tooth decalcification, including veneers, teeth whitening, composite bonding, and remineralization. Another option may be opting for Invisalign instead of braces, if this is an option. You can take off your Invisalign retainers and brush all of your tooth (as opposed to having a portion of it blocked by braces). 

Your teeth are among the first features people notice about you. White spots on your teeth may be unsightly, but reducing the decalcification of your teeth should be done for more than aesthetic reasons; if you don’t get it under control, you may end up with more significant health problems.