Fluoride is an important component of tooth care that can be found in a number of products designed to help clean and strengthen teeth. Fluoride has been found to help prevent cavities and tooth decay.
How Fluoride Prevents Tooth Decay
There are three ways that fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay:
1. Fluoride is absorbed by the surface of teeth that have suffered from demineralization. Once absorbed, the fluoride attracts other minerals and helps form new tooth mineral.
2. The new mineral that is created through the above process is actually harder than the compound that was on the tooth before. This makes if more resistant to future demineralization.
3. Fluoride disrupts the rate that bacteria in the mouth can consume sugare and produce acid. The reduced production of acidic waste that is produced through this process means that teeth suffer from less demineralization.
Where to Find Fluoride
In the 1940s, the United States began adding a controlled amount of fluoride to the public drinking water supply. This move was made after epidemiological studies showed that it significantly reduced tooth decay in children. Currently, about two-thirds of the US population has the benefit of having fluoride added to their drinking water.
Individuals living in rural areas or areas not on the public water supply do not have fluoride added to their drinking water. In addition, some water filters remove the fluoride from the water along with other minerals. Bottled water companies are not required to specify the amount of fluoride found in their water, but it is probably less than what is found in the public water supply.
Most commercial toothpastes have fluoride added to them. Some people choose to purchase non-fluoridated toothpastes because the form of fluoride in toothpaste can exacerbate some types of gum disease. Prescription fluoride toothpastes are also available to individuals who need special protection. The amount used in these toothpastes is still considered safe for human use and has not been found to harm the teeth.
Fluoride is also contained in mouth rinses, gels, and varnishes. These are sometime used in the dental office once the patientís teeth have been cleaned to add extra protection before they leave.
Overall, the use of fluoride is very safe; however, there are some problems that can occur if too much fluoride is used. If swallowed, fluoride can be extremely toxic. This is why childrenís toothpastes do not contain fluoride. Until children develop good brushing habits and have learned to spit out the toothpaste they need to use toothpaste that does contain any fluoride. Similarly, fluoride rinses should always be spit out. If a person does swallow an excess amount of fluoride, they should be immediately taken to the hospital.
Exposure to an overdose of fluoride can cause a condition known as dental fluorosis. This condition causes the teeth to have staining, cracking, and pitting in the permanent teeth. The condition develops when children between the ages of 3 months to eight years are exposed to too much fluoride in the water supply or through another source. The cosmetic problems present from this condition can be treated by a dentist through whitening treatments or porcelain veneers.
A great fluoride rinse:
A good fluoride-free option for children: