How to Get Stronger Teeth at Home and at the Dentist (Podcast)
Dr. Nammy Patel from Green Dentistry in San Francisco explains why some teeth are strong, while others seem weak. In this podcast, she chats with John Maher about what people can do to strengthen their teeth.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Dr. Nammy Patel, founder of Green Dentistry in San Francisco, California, helping patients recognize the vital connection between dental health and whole body health and author of the bestselling book, Age with Style: Guide to a Youthful Smile and Healthy Living. Today, our topic is how to get stronger teeth at home and at the dentist. Welcome, Dr. Nammy.
Dr. Nammy Patel: Thank you for having me, John.
What Makes Teeth Strong or Weak?
John: Sure. Dr. Nammy what makes teeth strong or weak? And I’ve heard of somebody having soft or weak teeth. What does that mean?
Dr. Nammy: When somebody has strong or weak teeth, it actually is based on the outside of the outer layer of the tooth. So, the tooth is a crystal. It’s a hard crystal. It’s actually strong. Enamel is the outer layer of the teeth and it’s our protective layer. It’s kind of like our skin, and it’s very, very, very strong. I think stronger than bone, believe it or not. You can put a lot of force on a tooth before it fractures or anything along those lines.
And the beauty of it is that it’s a crystal. And so, that means that you can demineralize it and re-mineralize it. When somebody talks about having strong or weak teeth, they’re actually talking about the outer crystal of their tooth. Is it stronger or is it weak? There are certain diseases that make the outer crystal weak, and they tend to cause a genetic dysfunction that has a problem with making the outer enamel properly, so that’ll cause weak teeth.
Explaining Weak Teeth
Dr. Nammy: The majority of the population, though, feels or thinks they have weak teeth. And it’s usually related to when they were children, when they didn’t get enough calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and things like that, which are the building blocks of the enamel itself. Hydroxyapatite is the mineral that we call it.
And so, what happens is that there’s this crystal in the mouth and then there’s saliva. So every time you eat, the pH drops to about 2. So when that happens, this crystal starts dissolving. And about 20 minutes later, the pH neutralizes. So now, in the saliva, there’s also calcium, anything that you’ve eaten, for example, will go into the tooth and it will remineralize, making it stronger. So there’s this balance of demineralization and remineralization happening all the time.
So when people say they have weak teeth, that means that they have a lot of demineralization happening, meaning that they’re probably getting a lot of cavities for some sort of a reason, either they’re eating too frequently, either they have acid reflux, either their body pH is really low, either they’re not brushing their teeth properly and leaving a lot of bacteria on there that eat away at that enamel. Those are the people that have weak teeth.
Defining Strong Teeth
Dr. Nammy: Then, you have those people that are like, “I’ve never had a cavity before.” And it’s fantastic because their enamel is so strong, and their enamel is really strong for several reasons. It could be that they just have a high-calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, potassium diet that’s number one. Number two, it could be that when they were… during pregnancy, mom knew she was pregnant, she was taking all these supplements in, so the baby’s bones were being made, everything was functioning properly, which is really wonderful.
And so, those are the main reasons that we find people with strong teeth are people who have really good oral hygiene. That’s fantastic as well. The genetics really help out as well. So, those are all good reasons for having really strong teeth. It has to do a lot with the calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and potassium, for sure.
Can Surgery or Acidic Drinks Affect Tooth Enamel?
John: Can drinking a lot of soda or other sugary or acidic types of drinks affect the enamel on your teeth and affect how hard your teeth are?
Dr. Nammy: That is a great question. Yes, it does. Having lots of sodas is going to actually drop the pH down, and it’s going to cause weak teeth. It’s going to cause a bunch of cavities. And then, even mineral water, if you put like lemon in it, believe it or not, lemon is horrific for your teeth. It actually is acidic, it’ll dissolve your teeth, but in the rest of your body, it’s fantastic.
So I always say, if anybody’s going to have mineral water with a little bit of lemon or something, drink it through a straw and that way doesn’t touch your teeth, you get the taste that you want, and it’s great for the body. So that’s what I would recommend for somebody if they’re going to have sodas and lemon water or anything like that.
Natural Ways to Improve the Strength of Your Teeth
John: Okay. Are there any other natural or holistic ways to improve your teeth strength and durability?
Dr. Nammy: Yes. There are great ways to increase tooth durability. Number one, it’s going to be obviously floss, brush, things like that, to get rid of all the bacteria that’s in your mouth after you’re done eating. Also calcium-rich foods, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, even potassium. All of those are really, really, really, really key, and vitamin C. They’re really fantastic.
Calcium foods are really great, including yogurt, cheese, soy milk. They actually promote strong bones and strong teeth, which is fantastic. Even tofu is really great. Almonds, dark leafy greens, vegetables, those are all fantastic. And then, vitamin C is really great, what we find in citrus fruits, right? Tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, potatoes, spinach, all of those are really, really, really great for helping the gums as well.
Can Your Dentist Help You Get Stronger Teeth?
John: What if I come into the dentist’s office, is there something that a dentist can do at the office to help me get stronger teeth?
Dr. Nammy: Absolutely. Absolutely. And the first couple of things we’re going to focus on are going to be lifestyle-oriented such as brushing, what foods you are eating and things like that. And we definitely have products that we can put on the teeth that will make them stronger. For example, we do use a specific brand of varnish, which has a little bit of fluoride in it.
And so, the reason that it makes the teeth stronger is that fluoride is actually better than a calcium crystal. Remember I talked about the tooth, it’s a crystal, right? So the calcium is actually a big crystal. The fluoride is a small crystal. So when it goes into the outer layer, it compacts and makes a really nice tight, outer layer of the tooth that becomes more resistant to decay and more resistant to acid. So that’s how it really helps out with your teeth.
There’s also remineralizing toothpaste that exists with calcium and magnesium in it. Those are really wonderful for patients to be able to utilize as well.
Can Mouthwash Help Make Teeth Stronger?
John: Okay. Are there certain types of mouthwash that are good for people to use on a regular basis? Do you recommend that?
Dr. Nammy: For mouthwash, I feel like it’s designed to make your mouth feel fresh. So there isn’t a mouthwash that I absolutely love. The one thing I do like is actually oil pulling, so that would be fantastic. Oil pulling is really great. It’ll take out all the bacteria out of the teeth and the gums. So I would say I would encourage oil pulling versus using a mouthwash.
What Is Oil Pulling?
John: And can you just describe that briefly, the oil pulling and what that is?
Dr. Nammy: Yeah. So you can take a cup of oil and you can swish it around your mouth for about 15 to 20 minutes, and then you can spit it out, do not put it in the drain. If you have plants, put it in the plants because the plants would digest it. Or the other thing you could do is take it on your finger and just finger brush your teeth and gums.
And coconut oil is really fantastic because coconut oil actually kills off any bad bugs, so that’s really great. You can also use sesame oil. Sesame oil is wonderful as well. It’ll help whiten the teeth. It’ll help make the gum stronger as well, and it’s more cost-effective.
Contact Green Dentistry to Talk About Strong Teeth Today
John: All right. That’s great advice, Dr. Nammy. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Dr. Nammy: My pleasure.
John: And for more information about Green Dentistry, visit the website at sfgreendentist.com or call (415) 433-0119.