The human body is continually breaking itself down and reassembling itself, even bones. This is a good feature because it keeps everything in good condition. It also means that many problems can be reversed. So for example if you give up smoking the damage it has done is gradually repaired. If you give up soon enough you can even get back to the same life expectancy you would have had if you had never smoked. Even the most virulent of toxins – which cigarette smoke is pretty close to being – can usually be removed. But not all damage is reversible, and tooth enamel is one of the things that is not replaced routinely. If it is damaged, it is damaged for good.
Damaging enamel physically is a tall order. It is the hardest tissue in the human body and can cope with most assaults. This is just as well when you consider that its main role is protecting the tooth during chewing. But it is unfortunately very susceptible to attacks by acids. The acid that does the most damage is lactic acid, which is produced by the breakdown of sugars by bacteria in the mouth. Given that we all eat a lot of sugary foods, our teeth are under constant pressure and very few of us have the kind of enamel that our ancestors would have had.
In fact one of the few ways in which people in medieval times were healthier than we are today is in the condition of their teeth. This is so well established that archeologists can quickly tell old skeletons from the fact that their teeth are in much better condition than their own.
If you really want to have the best possible teeth going there really is no alternative. You have to give up all modern processed food and eat simple fruit and vegetables. But this isn’t something that most of us can manage, so the next best option is to try and keep our mouths clean by brushing with toothpaste. This is no more than an amelioration of a bad situation. Brushing your teeth regularly slows down the damage done by the food we eat, but no more than that. In particular it can’t undo damage to enamel. Once that is lost partially or fully it is gone forever.
This fact is well known. So when Unilever brought out a toothpaste called Regenerate, and ran a poster claiming it regenerated enamel somebody lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Agency. The complaint was upheld and the advert will have to be withdrawn.
Unilever are one of the biggest players in personal care and it is disappointing to see them having any kind of judgement against them. But multinationals do this kind of thing from time to time so it as well to be aware of it. They have some science behind what they are doing and I dare say it is a good enough product as they go. But even with the advert out of the way the very name implies that it can do something it can’t. Be aware. Toothpaste cannot regenerate your enamel.