Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in water, soil, and certain foods. It can also be produced synthetically for use in toothpaste, mouthwashes, drinking water, and some chemical products. According to the CDC Division of Oral Health, consuming fluoridated water keeps teeth strong and lowers the risk of cavities by about 25 percent in both children and adults. It can also make teeth stronger and more resistant to acid attacks.
Of course, too much of a good thing can sometimes be harmful. Learn what it is and how to use it safely.
What’s Fluoride and Where Is It Found?
Minerals are lost from teeth when acids formed from bacteria and sugars in the mouth attack enamel. One of the best ways to prevent the breakdown of tooth enamel is with fluoride, a naturally-occurring mineral that helps make teeth more resistant to harmful acids. The use of fluoride can also be useful for reversing early decay and speeding up the reabsorption of minerals to the enamel.
Every day, tooth enamel adds and loses minerals due to factors like brushing or not brushing, eating certain foods, or forgetting to floss. Minerals, such as calcium, phosphate, and fluoride, are returned to the enamel from the water and foods you consume, a process known as remineralization. Tooth decay can develop when too much demineralization occurs without enough remineralization to repair the damage.
Fluoride can be found in both food and water. You’ll also find this mineral in fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwashes. With a prescription from your dentist, you can obtain a stronger concentration of a fluoride product. Your dentist may also recommend applying it directly to your teeth as a foam, gel, or varnish. This type of treatment contains a much higher amount of fluoride than what is found in over-the-counter oral health care products.
Benefits of Fluoride For Teeth?
Fluoride is an important mineral to consume through water or by using oral health products like toothpaste or mouthwash. There are several key benefits of fluoride, including:
- Protects Your Enamel – One of the biggest benefits of fluoride is the protection of tooth enamel. When enamel begins to deteriorate, it can cause your teeth to become more sensitive to normal activities, such as drinking hot or cold liquids. Brushing your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste can help protect and strengthen your enamel.
- Restores Minerals to Your Teeth – Acids produced by plaque in the mouth can break down enamel over time by destroying the minerals that make up your teeth. Fluoride helps reverse the damage caused by this loss of minerals through remineralization.
- Prevents Tooth Decay and Cavities – Bacteria are produced in the mouth when sugars and starches are consumed, creating acids that attack teeth. Fluoride is an effective treatment to battle tooth decay or cavities. The use of fluoride products at home alongside treatments by your dentist can help ward off decay and keep your teeth free of cavities.
- Serves as a Natural Preventative – Today, fluoride is found in most public water supplies across the United States. Drinking tap water serves as a natural preventative against tooth decay and other oral health problems. With fluoridated water, helping to keep your teeth healthy is as easy as enjoying a glass of water.
- Saves You Money in the Long-Term – Dental work can be costly. Keeping your teeth healthy with the use of fluoride and good dental habits helps prevent future treatments. If you are concerned about the health of your teeth, talk to your dentist about fluoride treatments.
Fluoride is both safe and effective when used as directed but can be harmful in high doses. It is important to always supervise children and to keep these products out of reach of children under age six. Excess consumption can also cause defects in the enamel, such as white streaks or spots, a problem known as fluorosis. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact the friendly staff at Hancock Village Dental today.