Wednesday, October 28, 2015Using your cosmetics well

How to prevent tooth erosion and stains

As time goes by, good oral and dental hygiene is no longer enough to preserve tooth enamel and whiteness. Here are the good habits and right cosmetics – with or without fluorine – to be adopted to keep or recover your stainless smile.

Reading time
~ 8 minutes

What is tooth erosion?

Tooth erosion is an enamel degradation usually caused by the chemical aggression of specific foods that act on the surface of our teeth by degrading it.

Who is responsible? Food habits, in particular the consumption of acid ingredients (both drinks and fruit, mostly), but also gastric reflux and repeated vomiting for people suffering from bulimia or anorexia.
Attrition is frequent with adults, and it worsens with age, but it increasingly affects the younger generations fond of sodas and energy drinks with an acid pH.

The first signs of tooth erosion are often hard to identify, so you had better trust your dental surgeon’s diagnosis. However, a tooth that becomes transparent, makes dentine visible, gets stained, loses its whiteness, or gets thinner until its initial form changes and it cracks, is a tooth that is in an advanced stage of erosion.
If you lose your enamel, it is not just aesthetically uncomfortable. Unfortunately, it also exposes teeth to external aggressions and can lead to dental hypersensitivity to hot and cold temperatures, to sugar and touch, and therefore to acute pain.

Daily prevention

If British researchers are said to have recently developed toothpaste capable of restructuring tooth enamel and restoring the teeth original whiteness, tooth erosion remains an insidious, irreversible phenomenon which can be avoided or delayed by reducing contact with the factors responsible for its appearance.

• Brush your teeth with as gentle brushes and toothpaste as possible. Get rid of too hard and aggressive bristles. Select toothpaste with a neutral pH and low abrasive power. Some actives in whitening toothpaste can prove too powerful in this case. Better choose gentle powders, like silica – hydrated or not (Hydrated silica, silica) – or clay (Kaolin, Montmorillonite, Illite…).

• Do not brush your teeth right after consuming acid food, as it could intensify acidity and not leave enough time for saliva to do its job

• Reduce your consumption of acid foods and avoid eating them alone between meals, in particular fruit: citrus fruit, kiwifruit, rhubarb, apples (Granny smith, Elstar, Malrose), plums, tomatoes, but also white bread, white sugar, cheese, fried food, beer, coffee, condiments, and vinegars…

• Avoid carbonated drinks, sodas, and acid fruit juice, or drink them with a straw to reduce contact with tooth enamel

• After eating acid foods, drink plain water to help forming saliva, which protects enamel from acidity

• Another key element to take into account: beware of taking vitamin C or aspirin tablets, as well as certain antibiotics or antidepressants that dry the mouth and reduce the production of saliva, which also tends to decrease with age

The right anti-tooth stain reflexes

Just like with tooth erosion, tooth stains can be prevented with daily, regular tooth brushing and by avoiding or reducing the consumption of certain foods with a colouring power:

• Avoid foods and drinks rich in tannins like wine and tea (especially black tea), red fruits like raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, red currants, red and black grapes, as they pigment the enamel

• Beware of coffee, spices, and tobacco, which tarnish the whiteness of teeth

Whiteness toothpaste and mouthwash: with or without fluorine

Using toothpaste and mouthwash on a daily basis are the main cosmetic answers to enamel alteration. Therefore, the idea is to choose the most adapted ones, those capable of cleansing it without attacking it, and protecting it, or even reinforcing it. But do the best ones contain fluorine or not?

Fluor is recognized for reinforcing tooth enamel and fighting against the formation of caries. As it stabilizes the mineral composition of tooth enamel, it makes it less vulnerable and increases its resistance to acid attacks. That is why it is often very present in a multitude of tooth care products, toothpaste, and mouthwash.

A fluoride debate

However, both its interest and safety are still debated, because if it is administered in too high quantities, it can have harmful effects, or even produce the opposite effects from those desired.
As a matter of fact, too much fluorine can cause a tooth disease, fluorosis, which can be identified by the appearance of white or yellowish stains on the enamel.
And in case of overdosage (mainly if it is ingested in high quantities), this compound can also trigger real intoxications, with nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, irritations of the mucous membrane, and in the most serious cases, convulsion, or even heart rhythm disorders…

The thing is, fluorine is naturally present in food (fish, table salt…) and drinking water, and it is sometimes added as a supplement to our daily regime with pharmaceuticals. And if providing fluorine may be interesting to reinforce infants’ tooth formation, it seems we do not lack it as we grow older. And to reinforce enamel, it is possible to do with… or without it.

The right dosage of fluorine

Overdosing fluorine through cosmetics only is obviously little likely. The problem comes from exposure accumulation, and even if the risk remains low, it is not neglected by health authorities, which have enacted safety rules. Fluorine concentration is regulated by law according to age or types of toothpaste – which can be considered as cosmetics or medicines. Maximum doses have been defined for each case, and it is everyone’s responsibility to respect and verify them before buying a new product – they must absolutely appear on the packaging – to make sure at least the legal safety margin is not exceeded.

Legal concentrations of fluorine in toothpastes
(in ppm : parts per million)

[F - ] For Product statute
< 500 ppm Children from 3 to 6 Cosmetic
 1000 to 1500 ppm Children(> 7), Adults Cosmetic
> 1500 ppm Adults Medicine

NB : fluorine is not recommended for  children under 2

Alternatives to fluorine

Fluorine, which can be of natural marine origin, is not banned as such by organic cosmetics standards. And yet, it is the organic segment that seeks alternatives and develops fluorine-free oral hygiene products to reinforce tooth enamel.

The objective is to strengthen the enamel by providing it with the nutrients it lacks, in particular minerals and trace elements, with several types of actives, including:
• White or green clay, which are rich in complex minerals and can reinforce the enamel, while purifying the oral environment
• Calcium carbonate, which provides… its calcium, one of the main elements in dental tissue, and a factor enhancing the structure of enamel
• Sea salt, which is a source of trace elements (in addition to a bit of natural fluorine)
• Rosemary essential oil, which acts as a remineralizing and strengthening agent for the teeth, in addition to relieving sensitive gums

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