MOUTH CHEMISTRY

I have written so many articles on health about different parts of body. So I decided, why not write an article on mouth chemistry. Although, it’s not my field, but I have consulted about this from my dentist friends.

So. let’s start it…

Mouth is an orifice through which food and air particles enters. In human anatomy, it is also called Oral cavity or buccal cavity. Our mouth opens to the outside towards the lips and empties into the throat, and also contains muscular organ called tongue. Well, this was about little bit of mouth anatomy, but what’s this article about?? This article is about all the chemical aspects like what are our teeth made of?, reaction between bacteria and sugar? PH (Power of hydrogen) in our mouth etc.

The environment present in our mouth is affected by many factors like hormones, diet, dehydration level, and medication, especially those factors that change hormone levels, affect diuretics or liquid balance, or have the side effect of dry mouth. Sometimes changes in saliva flow and mouth chemistry occurs so slowly that you can be unaware of your increased risk for cavities until problem arise.

Women’s mouth chemistry in particular is volatile, and changes that make the mouth more acidic will have devastating effects on their teeth. A number of life situations can influence and cause the chemistry of the mouth to deteriorate. For example, new mothers who have enjoyed perfect teeth all their lives may be shocked to find cavities develop during their pregnancy. Sometimes the damage is seen as loose fillings, bleeding gums, or sensitive teeth. Hormones trigger a change in a pregnant woman’s saliva, altering it’s quality and limiting it’s ability its ability to provide natural tooth protection. These changes can occur at any time during a pregnancy, but the most risk for acidic damage to teeth occurs during the last trimester.

The following is a list of circumstances that can change your mouth chemistry by making saliva more acidic or by drying the mouth and, consequently, elevating the risk of developing cavities and other dental problems:

  • Nasal congestion from seasonal allergies, asthma, or sinuses infections
  • Hormonal changes (including pregnancy, adolescence, and menopause)
  • Medications (including Ritalin)
  • Illness with fever or nasal congestion ( even a simple cold or the flu)
  • Mouth breathing ( athletics, wearing dental braces)
  • A chronic or acutely stressful situation, such as a death or crisis in the family, or business stress
  • Duties that involve constant talking, such as lecturing, teaching, or stage performance
  • Gastric acid reflux
  • Bulimia (People with bulimia overeat first, and then they vomit to get rid of the extra calories)
  • Chemotherapy or long-term illness
  • Poor diet, with lack of minerals and vitamins
  • Fears
  • Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Aging
  • Work in situations where oxygen changes (divers, astronauts)
  • A feeding or breathing tube in hospitalized patients

Caries and Cavities

Many people believe that sugar is the main cause of cavities. They are unnerved when they are explained with the shocking myth buster: sugar itself does not harm teeth. Teeth are damaged only when sugar energizes a damaging kind of bacteria in your mouth. Sugar gives energy to this particular kind of bacteria and they, in turn, produce tooth- corrosive acids. Acids weaken teeth and cause cavities. Let me restate this simply: Without the harmful acid- producing bacteria, sugar will not harm your teeth.

Dental Caries

People often think that dental caries is the same thing as cavities. A cavity is just a hole caused by caries, disease that damages teeth. Many people think that cavities happen for no real reason, in any random place on a tooth, but cavities are not random at all; they are the result of damage caused by a bacterial disease that can easily be present on your teeth and all over your mouth. The infection of dental disease – that is, dental caries – will never be isolated to one place or one tooth; it attacks and weakens all your teeth progressively until they break, usually one or two at a time, always at the most vulnerable places. When you understand these facts, you see why placing a filling in a cavities does nothing to stop the disease that caused it or the damage that this disease will now inflict on other teeth elsewhere in your mouth.

Dental caries can spread and become more damaging if particular factors, which I call perfect storm conditions, occur in someone’s mouth. Mouth conditions deteriorate as harmful bacteria with energy that allows them to multiply and produce acids, which can make the whole mouth progressively more acidic. The acidity attacks and weakens tooth enamel everywhere, but the tooth enamel that is under the most stress from biting or chewing will usually be the first place to break and form cavities in teeth.

If conditions in your mouth do not change, one cavity will soon be followed by another one. If you do not eliminate the disease that caused the first problem, more damage will occur to other teeth, and you will most likely start a never – ending series of treatments. Over time, in an unhealthy mouth, the ongoing disease attacks the new fillings and eventually root-canal treatments and crowns. In a disease mouth, most newly filled teeth show signs of damage and need repair within five years after original treatment. In some cases it can be less time before new filling needs repair.

INSIDE A TOOTH

Some people are surprised to learn that inside the outer shell of a tooth is soft living tissue with cells, nerves, and a blood supply. The outside of a tooth may feel hard to your tongue, but don’t imagine your teeth as a row of stony pebbles in your mouth. If they were, it would be fine to scrub, and polish them because then, the more you scrubbed and polished, the brighter they would be. The fact is that the outer enamel of tooth is a delicate mesh of minerals that is easily rubbed away, dissolved, and damaged, particularly by acidity or inappropriate scrubbing and polishing.

OUTSIDE A TOOTH

Weakness in the outer layer of your tooth can allow liquids, bacteria, and stains to travel towards the center part, which will irritate the nerve and potentially lead to an infection that can threaten the life of your tooth. Protecting tooth enamel is important for many reasons, but especially in order to keep the center of your tooth healthy and disease free.

The enamel on the outside of your tooth is constantly changing in strength and hardness, becoming softer for a while and then naturally hardening up again. People have known for years that there is a similar chemistry to keep our skeleton healthy. Minerals are deposited into bone and then removed in a natural process of breakdown and rebuilding. Healthy bone exists when the repairs balance the wearing away. Even under normal, healthy conditions, the strength of tooth enamel is always in balance, as the outer enamel builds up and breaks down all day and all night.

Strong Teeth

As we grow older, or if sickness changes our body chemistry, repairs our skeleton may slow down, and osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) can occur if there is not enough building up of bones to counter the wearing away. Changes in the balance make it difficult to maintain bone strength, and the same goes for teeth. For bone health, women are encouraged to build the strength of their bones before they become weak or damaged. They should similarly work to protect and maintain the strength of their teeth, even before they see any signs of damage.

The difference between maintaining healthy bones and teeth is the ease with which we can control the balance for our teeth and prevent any loss of strength in the enamel, no matter our age or our state of general health. Our teeth are in direct contact with mouth liquid that can either soften and wear teeth away or build them up. Everything we consume touches our teeth directly or mixes with mouth liquid to flow around them, into every groove or pit on their surface. Food particles dissolved in mouth liquids contribute either to tooth erosion or tooth repair, depending on the chemistry of the resulting liquid. When any corrosive or acidic mouth liquid flows over teeth, it interacts with surface of the enamel and dissolves it.

MINERALS

If you examined healthy enamel with microscope with a microscope, you would see that it is made up of a skeleton with crystals in between a lattice- shaped structure. These crystals are packed tightly together, with only a very thin, watery film between them. Even when enamel is healthy and made up of these densely packed crystals, mouth liquids can flow between them, working through the tiny spaces around each crystal.

Tooth enamel is built from calcium and phosphate, two minerals that occur naturally in saliva. Under the correct conditions ,these minerals combine to form crystals called calcium hydroxyapatite. These crystals are packed together tightly, little grains of salt, within a lattice- type skeleton that creates the structure of tooth enamel. The appearance of enamel is like a honeycomb, and you can imagine the skeleton as the comb and the crystals like the honey that fills in the spaces.

When your saliva is alkaline, calcium and phosphate flow into tooth enamel and build more crystals that form strong and dense enamel that is resistant to damage. On mouth acidity, in a moist and alkaline mouth, enamel crystals grow large and thick because minerals are plentiful. Most people are aware that fluoride helps to strengthen teeth and fluoride works by encouraging the formation of these large and well – formed enamel crystals.

In a moist and alkaline mouth, dilute concentrations fluoride can increase the speed at which minerals form saliva turn into enamel crystals. Fluoride is really an activator – in scientific terms, fluoride would be catalyst. The interesting thing is that when enamel crystals form in the presence of fluoride, a tiny particle of fluoride is incorporated into crystals. The scientific name of this crystal is calcium fluorapatite, and it has a different chemistry from the calcium hydeoxyapatite crystal of regular enamel crystals and has a more perfect shape. Tooth enamel formed with kind of crystal appears smoother, shiner, smoother, shinier, and stronger and is less easily damaged by acids and the wear and tear that can harm teeth.

On the other hand, when teeth are bathed in acidic saliva or corrosive foods and drinks, minerals flow out of the tooth , enamel crystal melt or dissolve, and the framework (the skeleton) becomes less densely packed, with smaller crystals. As the crystals melt (imagine an antacid tablet melting or dissolving in a glass of water) and become smaller, spaces or gaps , called pores, form between each crystal. As the spaces enlarge, they fill up with liquid. In this way, enamel under acidic attack loses it’s density and becomes more porous, and porous teeth are more likely to break , chip, or crumble. Porous teeth also stain more easily as colors from foods and drinks soak into their surface.

Understanding the difference fluoride can make to the outer shell of the teeth explains why people with acidic mouths and damaged teeth should use dilute fluoride rinses to strengthen and protect them from any future acidity or dental damage.

When a dentist puts a white filling on the surface of a tooth he or she will etch the surface of that tooth with some acid, using this crystals “melting” process to purposefully remove minerals and open up pores in your tooth surface. An acidic liquid is coated over the enamel and allowed to soak for few seconds. The acidic liquid shrinks the enamel crystals and opens up pores between them. The acidic liquid is washed , and filling material is flowed onto the enamel and allowed to soak into the surface and into these microscopic holes. This method creates what appears to be (under the microscope) a mass of mini- fingers or tentacles clinging in the pore holes. To the patient, the white filling appears to magically stick onto the surface of the tooth. In fact, this has been a great demonstration of how quickly and easily tooth enamel crystals can be dissolved by acidity and how porous they make the tooth surface.

DEMINERALIZATION AND REMINERALIZATION

Dentists call the process of losing and gaining minerals in tooth enamel demineralization and remineralization. Demineralization occurs every time your mouth is acidic; the longer mouth remains acidic; the more damage to your teeth. When enough minerals have dissolved, only the fragile skeleton of enamel will remain. Imagine a honeycomb without the honey. In this situation, any pressure or stress on the skeleton will cause it to break, forming a hole, or cavity. Despite the huge amount of fear, myth, and insecurity in many people’s minds about cavities, there is only one way for cavity to form. Acids in the mouth dissolve the strength of a tooth to the point at which it breaks.

Remineralization is the rebuilding process that helps prevent cavity. The process occurs in almost everyone’s mouth naturally but slowly, and the good news is that it can be speeded up by rinsing with fluoride or by regular exposure to xylitol. Remineralization repairs damaged enamel and can work to rebuild the tooth – sometimes completely provided repairs begin before the enamel skeleton is physical broken.

OUR TEETH ARE SENSITIVE

Weak or porous enamel can never adequately protect the live cells and nerves inside a tooth. Most people with acid- softener teeth notice their are sensitive and hurt when they drink hot or cold beverages. The more your enamel, the more easily the inside of your tooth can be harmed. Damaged to the nerve may be permanent and irreversible, resulting in the death of the tooth. When the nerve is damaged, treatment could require either root canal therapy and crowning or extraction and replacement of the tooth with implants or bridges. Keeping the outside of a tooth strong and re mineralized is the key, not only to avoid tooth pain and cavities, but also to extending the lifelong health of the inside of your teeth. Using products to strengthen and re mineralize your teeth each day will provide protection to avoid cavities, filling, repairs, and most of the dental treatments that people around you will experience as they age.

Throughout life, all the products we consume affects our teeth. Sometimes, acidic apple juice, sports drinks, sodas, coffee, and beer harm our teeth. At other times, our teeth may benefit from mineral – rich drinking water, vegetable juices, dairy products, xylitol, and alkaline soups and broths. The end state of teeth- stained and weak or healthy and strong – is the final condition that results from the continuous swing between damage to your teeth and natural repair. Teeth will be sensitive and break when the damage outweighs the repairs. Teeth will be bright and strong if they are regularly able to rebuild themselves to full strength.

Many people who have cavities and bad teeth are those who, for whatever reason , do not have enough minerals in their saliva to provide the materials needed for this re mineralization process. Some people have dry mouth or insufficient saliva to coat, protect, and rebuild their teeth. Others find their own saliva tests acidic on a regular basis. Imagine having acidic saliva in your mouth all day and all night, weakening your teeth constantly and too acidic to offer protection from external acids from consumed foods or beverages. Such factors can quickly lead people into serious dental situations, with decay and cavities which could never be controlled by a traditional flossing or dental cleanings. Dental problems in a dry mouth may actually be made worse with excessive toothbrushing or the frequent use of mouth rinses like Listerine, which itself has an acidity level capable of dissolving tooth enamel if it remains, undiluted, on teeth for a long period of time.

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