We dentists make a pretty big deal about fluoride and how good it is for your teeth. Truly, fluoride is the best cavity fighter out there, helping our teeth stay healthy and strong!
But how exactly does fluoride do such an awesome job at keeping our mouths cavity-free?
Bacteria that are in plaque produce acids that seep into tooth enamel and break it down. This process of breaking down enamel is what causes cavities over time. Where plaque breaks down the tooth, fluoride builds it up!
Fluoride, a mineral that occurs naturally in many foods and water, protects teeth from cavity-causing bacteria by making tooth enamel more resistant to bacteria’s acid attacks.
Fluoride also helps repair tooth decay in its early stages by building up the tooth in a process called remineralization. This cavity-fighting mineral even reduces the ability of plaque bacteria to produce acid in the first place!
Fluoride can be directly applied to the teeth through fluoridated toothpastes and mouth rinses. In fact, toothpaste with fluoride has been responsible for a significant drop in cavities since 1960.
Dental offices also offer fluoride application to teeth as a gel, foam or varnish. Getting a fluoride treatment periodically is important because it contains a higher concentration of fluoride.
Exposure to fluoride can be especially beneficial for infants and children. Between the ages of six months and 16 years, fluoride becomes incorporated into the developing permanent teeth, protecting them from cavity-causing bacteria.
However, adults and children alike need to get enough fluoride to protect their teeth. Just as important as strengthening developing teeth is fighting tooth decay, which fluoride will help you do even after your permanent teeth have come in.
Increased exposure to fluoride can be beneficial for people with certain health conditions. For example, if you have dry mouth, gum disease or a history of frequent cavities, your dentist may recommend additional fluoride treatments or supplements. Ask us if you could benefit from additional fluoride.
The take home message is this: fluoride helps prevent tooth decay. If you have any questions about fluoride, call us or come in! We would love to hear from you!
Top image by Flickr user bradfordst219 used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.