The science behind our mints
1) How Dr. Heff’s mints clean and restore your teeth
What’s the problem? Tooth decay is caused by the acid-producing bacteria found in plaque, which is a sticky biofilm that infests the surface of your teeth. The acid produced by this harmful bacteria strips away at the building blocks of your teeth: calcium and phosphate. This process is called demineralisation. The bacteria in plaque also produce enzymes called collagenases that eat away the collagen scaffold of the dentine that makes up the deeper layers of your tooth. The enzymes eat away at the root of your tooth if your gum has receded, which typically occurs in older age or as a result of gum disease.
In this way, these harmful enzymes produced by the bacteria in plaque cause structural damage to your teeth that cannot be repaired (except by a dentist’s filling, which of course is never as good as your original tooth). The good news is that in the early stages of tooth decay, in which the collagen scaffold has not been damaged, the calcium and phosphate ‘building blocks’ can be restored, repairing the damage. This process is called remineralisation. Remineralisation means that, in its early stages, the process of tooth decay is reversible.
How our mints help: Dr. Heff’s mints help the process of remineralisation in two ways. First, by reducing acidity levels in the mouth, thereby allowing calcium and phosphate to repair the damage done by tooth decay. Second, by preserving the collagen scaffold that provides the structure around which remineralisation occurs.
The science explained: Demineralisation starts to occur when the acid produced by bacteria in the mouth increases acidity levels around the tooth to pH 5 or below. At this level of acidity, or pH, the calcium and phosphate ‘building blocks’ start to be stripped out of the tooth. Over time, naturally produced saliva reduces the level of acidity in the mouth, thereby raising the pH level to pH 5 and above, which allows the teeth to start repairing the damage done during the acid attack. This is remineralisation! However, if the pH around the tooth stays below pH 5 consistently, there is no opportunity for remineralisation to occur.
The crucial fact here is that the faster we are able to reduce acidity levels in our mouths following an acid attack, the sooner the damaging process of demineralisation stops and the restorative process of remineralisation begins.
Scientific studies have demonstrated that Dr. Heff’s mints help the process of remineralisation in three ways. First, the use of Xylitol in our mints reduces acidity levels in the mouth more quickly by increasing the production of saliva – thereby creating the right conditions for remineralisation to occur. Second, the use of calcium phosphate in our mints helps to provide the calcium and phosphate ‘building blocks’ that repair your teeth during remineralisation. Third, the use of a specific green tea extract in our mints helps to preserve the collagen structure of the tooth, thereby strengthening the ‘scaffolding’ that provides the structure around which remineralisation takes place.
Researchers at the University of Illinois tested our mints to see the effect they had on decay in tooth samples. This study found that exposure to Dr. Heff’s mints led to a significant reduction in the decay of the tooth samples in comparison with Xylitol and saliva, when all three were measured against sodium fluoride, which is considered the ‘gold standard’ by dentists.
2) How Dr. Heff’s mints reduce plaque
What’s the problem? Plaque is a sticky biofilm of bacteria that infests the surface of your teeth. If this sticky film is left undisturbed for more than 24 hours, the harmful bacteria in plaque can cause both tooth decay and gum disease. The reason we brush our teeth with toothbrushes and use agents such as toothpaste and mouthwash is to try to remove the build-up of this ‘biofilm’ of bacteria from our teeth. Approximately 20% of your mouth is cleaned regularly by brushing and flossing, as this is approximately the area taken up by your teeth.
However, the sticky plaque biofilm also covers the areas that take up the remaining 80% of your mouth, such as the tongue, gums and cheeks. These areas can act as ‘bacteria reservoirs’ where harmful bacteria collect because they are not removed by traditional oral hygiene methods such as brushing and flossing.
So, in an ideal world, to keep your mouth really healthy and clean, you would supplement your regular brushing and flossing (which focuses on your teeth) with a product that minimizes harmful bacteria in all the areas of your mouth.
How our mints help: One of the key ingredients of Dr. Heff’s mints is Xylitol, a natural, sugar-free sweetener that has been proven to help reduce the build-up of plaque.
The science explained: We have previously explained how the Xylitol ingredient in our mints combats tooth decay by increasing the production of saliva, which in turn helps to lower acidity levels in the mouth. However, Xylitol has a second major dental health benefit: it inhibits the growth and metabolism of the harmful bacteria found within plaque.
By acting in this way, the Xylitol ingredient in Dr. Heff’s mints reduces the amount of plaque and harmful bacteria throughout your mouth – including, crucially, the bacteria reservoirs that are not typically affected by brushing and flossing. What’s more, because bacteria in the mouth cause halitosis, taking Dr. Heff’s mints will also help to combat bad breath.
3) How Dr. Heff’s mints combat tooth erosion
What’s the problem? Tooth erosion is a common dental problem in which the enamel surface of the tooth is softened by demineralisation before the structure of the tooth itself is then removed layer by layer. This two-step process is made worse by any abrasive wear that occurs while your teeth have been softened by demineralisation. (A good example of this would be vigorously brushing your teeth immediately after drinking fruit juice for breakfast.)
This growing dental problem is caused by acids found in drinks such as fruit juices, smoothies, sodas, sports and energy drinks. Dental erosion can lead to shallow defects or divots on the smooth surfaces of your teeth and ‘cupping’, which is the hollowing out of the biting surfaces of your back teeth.
As the problem of tooth erosion becomes more serious, the teeth can often appear yellow and the front teeth can appear shortened as the enamel surface is stripped away, exposing the layer of dense bony tissue called ‘dentine’ that forms the bulk of the tooth. Tooth erosion can also damage the root dentine of teeth in much the same way as tooth decay.
The end result of all this erosion is the thinning of your teeth, increased tooth sensitivity, which can be very painful, and, over time, permanent damage to your teeth that will require the help of a dentist to repair.
How our mints help: Taking Dr. Heff’s mints after an erosive challenge (for example, after drinking fruit juice) will help your teeth by both neutralising the acid in your mouth and helping to repair any damage done to the enamel.
The science explained: Dr. Heff’s mints reduce tooth erosion in the same three ways that they help remineralisation. First, the Xylitol in our mints helps the pH level in your mouth return to normal more quickly by reducing acidity levels. Second, the calcium phosphate in our mints helps to put the calcium and phosphate ‘building blocks’ of the tooth back into the enamel. And third, the green tea extract in our mints helps to preserve the collagen scaffold that provides the structure around which the calcium and phosphate ‘building blocks’ are restored to the tooth.