Secrets to a sweeter smile


  Posted by: Dental Design      4th December 2023

How to stop demineralisation spoiling your patients’ selfies

With some people eating more than 40 teaspoons of sugar a day (that’s five times the recommended daily allowance)[i], it’s no wonder that almost one in three (31%) adults in the UK have tooth decay.[ii] And yet the desire to flash a strong, healthy smile has never been greater – around 93 million selfies are taken every day![iii]

Tooth demineralisation is one of the first signs of tooth decay[iv] and occurs when the acids produced by dental plaque erode the enamel. It effects the tooth’s appearance and wears away the tooth’s smooth surface, making the tooth’s interior dentine and sensitive root more vulnerable. Even strong teeth can be susceptible to this condition if proper oral hygiene practices are not followed.

So, on top of the standard ‘brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste’ guidance, what can you encourage patients to do to keep strong teeth? Protecting their enamel should be top of the list. Dental enamel is the hardest substance in the human body and is ‘the armour’ that protects the tooth from harm.[v] Once tooth enamel is damaged, it cannot be brought back. Weakened enamel can be restored to some extent by improving its mineral content. Although toothpastes and mouthwashes can never rebuild teeth, they can contribute to the remineralisation process.

In addition to good oral hygiene practices, dietary habits also play a crucial role in preventing demineralisation.Enamel can be damaged by acidic foods and drinks, so other than cutting back on their consumption, you could advise patients to drink water or dairy after an acidic meal or drink and also to use a straw with acidic drinks to minimise contact with the teeth. Every time anything sugary is eaten or drunk, the teeth are under acid attack for up to one This is because the sugar reacts with the bacteria in plaque and produces harmful acids.[vi]

Acidic foods and drinks can be similarly harmful. The acid dissolves the enamel, exposing the dentine underneath which can make teeth sensitive and

Patients may need to be reminded to never brush their teeth immediately after such meals as this can have a negative effect on the enamel. Chewing a sugar-free gum, on the other hand, should be recommended as this helps maintain tooth mineralisation. A 28.9% reduction in mineral loss has been shown when a sorbitol gum was chewed for 20 minutes after meals and snacks (without gum the rate was 16.8%).[vii] The act of chewing stimulates saliva which helps clear fermented bacterial products, buffers the drop in pH, prevents demineralisation and enhances remineralisation.[viii]

Eating calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese and other dairy products can help protect and strengthen enamel. High-calcium foods both neutralise the acid that harms enamel and helps to remineralise tooth surfaces. Vegetables such as broccoli, kale and other leafy greens are calcium rich too, providing a non-dairy approach.[ix]  

While sweets are an obvious one to put on the naughty list, the trend towards ‘sour’ sweets these days presents an even greater risk as it combines sugar with citric acid – the ultimate dental health nightmare!

It is worth bearing in mind that many foods these days contain hidden sugar. Often disguised by an array of unusual names, from carob syrup and diastase to maltodextrin and rice syrup, patients should be advised to read nutritional labels on products to discover just how much sugar a food product contains. Every four grams of sugar equates to one teaspoon of sugar.[x]

Patients should be beware too of starchy foods like chips and soft bread that can get stuck between teeth and convert to sugar, feeding the bacteria that turns into plaque.

Interdental brushes are more effective at removing food particles and bacteria from between teeth than regular brushes (and brushing). Given that around 33% of adults have never cleaned interdentally in the UK,[xi] putting them at an increased risk of periodontal disease, caries and tooth loss,[xii] advising patients of the benefits of interdental cleaning is vital. Recommending high quality products is also essential. For example, the iWave Interdental Brushes from Oraldent are available in a range of sizes to fit any interdental space, featuring flexible handles for easy use and access to all areas of the mouth.

Overall, maintaining a proper oral hygiene regimen and making healthier dietary choices are essential in preventing demineralisation and preserving strong teeth. The upside of society’s obsession with endless selfies is that patients will be more receptive to advice given by dental professionals than ever before.

For more information about the iWave range of interdental brushes, please visit, call 01480 862080 or email

[i] Sugar Smart campaign [Accessed August 2023]

[ii] Oral Health Foundation [Accessed August 2023]

[iii] [Accessed August 2023]

[iv] Cheng R, Yang H, Shao MY, Hu T, Zhou XD. Dental erosion and severe tooth decay related to soft drinks: a case report and literature review. J Zhejiang Univ Sci B. 2009 May;10(5):395-9. doi: 10.1631/jzus.B0820245. PMID: 19434767; PMCID: PMC2676420. [Accessed August 2023]

[v] Lacruz RS, Habelitz S, Wright JT, Paine ML. Dental enamel formation and implications for oral health and disease. Physiol Rev. 2017 Jul 1;97(3):939-993. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00030.2016. PMID: 28468833; PMCID: PMC6151498. [Accessed August 2023]

[vi] Oral Health Foundation [Accessed August 2023]

[vii] UK Parliament COH00024 Evidence on Children’s oral health[Accessed August 2023]

[viii] Heng C. Tooth Decay Is the Most Prevalent Disease. Fed Pract. 2016 Oct;33(10):31-33. PMID: 30766141; PMCID: PMC6373711. [Accessed August 2023]

[ix] Oral Health Foundation [Accessed August 2023]

[x] College of Naturopathic Medicine[Accessed August 2023]

[xi] Oral Health Foundation [Accessed August 2023]

[xii] Marchesan JT, Morelli T, Moss K, Preisser JS, Zandona AF, Offenbacher S, Beck J. Interdental Cleaning Is Associated with Decreased Oral Disease Prevalence. J Dent Res. 2018 Jul;97(7):773-778. doi: 10.1177/0022034518759915. Epub 2018 Feb 26. PMID: 29481764; PMCID: PMC6728587.


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