Fluoride is an essential element for dental health. This naturally occurring mineral helps prevent tooth decay and fights cavities. There are many ways to get its benefits. Ways like professional fluoride treatment, pit and fissure sealant, daily teeth brushing, or even drinking fluoridated water all help us achieve healthier teeth and mouth and prevent tooth decay with fluoride in various ways.
What does fluoride do to protect our teeth?
Fluoride prevents the demineralization of teeth and helps remineralize teeth instead. So, it strengthens tooth enamel and protects teeth from tooth decay and the risk of cavities development.
The process of demineralization is caused by acids made by bacteria in the plaque on your teeth. When bacteria feed on sugar and carbs in your mouth, they then produce acid that weakens the tooth enamel by eating away the minerals in your tooth structure. What fluoride does is to protect and increase the resistance of teeth against the effects of acids and thus the damage of demineralization.
When the acids are neutralized and there is less acid in your saliva, the remineralization stage will begin by fluoride with replacing lost calcium and phosphate ions in the teeth. This will provide the necessary minerals, making teeth hard and protected. Therefore, fluoride even reverses the early stages of tooth decay when there is no cavities formed yet.
Where is fluoride found?
Found naturally in soil and water, fluoride is an ionic form of fluorine, which is one of the natural elements on earth. Underground water has more of it than water in lakes and surface water.
Foods and water are the main sources of fluoride intake. In case of a deficiency in the water, dentists can also prescribe dietary supplements. This can come in liquid forms or tablets that children can have to get sufficient intake.
Why is fluoride added to water?
Each individual needs the necessary amount of fluoride to supply the mineral and nutritional supplements. Therefore, it is added to our drinking water or some bottled water.
Water fluoridation helps limit the risk of dental decay even from a young age. Plus, it is a cost-effective way to cover a large population of people this way. This is similar to adding vitamin C to fruits and adding folic acid to cereals and pasta to prevent diseases related to birth defects and vitamin deficiencies. Similarly, fluoride in the drinking water makes us stay safe against tooth decay or diseases like diarrhea or mineral deficiencies.
Fluoride in toothpaste, varnish and mouthwash
We can benefit from fluoride topically with the application on teeth through fluoridated toothpaste, varnish, or in mouthwash.
1. Fluoride Varnish
Fluoride varnish is a dental treatment where a higher concentration of fluoride is applied on teeth. This treatment is done by your dentist or a dental professional like a dental hygienist. Varnishes help the remineralization process of teeth faster and allow for longer and more efficient exposure.
Both young and old can get the recommended concentration depending on the dental condition or age. For children, the amount of 5% sodium fluoride is mostly used in varnish ingredients. The goal of varnish for children is to prevent tooth decay. For older people, it is a major treatment option for preventing root caries.
Whether you are an adult or young, using fluoridated toothpaste is a must to keep teeth healthy and free of cavities. When children are between 3 to 6 years of age, it is recommended that they brush their teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.
Sodium fluoride, sodium monoflurophosphate (MFP), and stannous fluoride (SnF) are common compound ingredients in toothpaste. Some of the toothpastes contain higher levels of this tooth-friendly ingredient (1500 ppm) and some contain lower amounts (1000 ppm).
Another topical way to get fluoride is by using mouthwash. They are a great product to improve dental health and get rid of bad breath.
If you are wearing braces, you may have difficulty brushing your teeth. Therefore, mouthwash can help keep the teeth in good health. Mouthwashes can also be useful for those people with low saliva flow in the mouth.
But remember that according to ADA, it is not recommended for children under 6 to use mouthwash, unless prescribed by a dentist.
Fluoride can prevent white spots in braces
White spots are caused because of poor oral health and are a sign of the early stages of tooth decay. This happens especially when wearing braces due to difficulties that people face with cleaning their teeth properly. During the time that you are wearing fixed orthodontic appliances like braces, white lesions may appear around brackets on the teeth.
To prevent white lesions and further enamel demineralization, each individual regardless of whether they have braces or not should practice oral hygiene daily and appropriately. Braces wearers may need to do more. They can use mouthwash or visit a dentist for fluoride varnish treatment to help them prevent the white spots.
Is fluoride toxic?
Although fluoride is safe, excessive ingestion can be toxic and harmful. Toxicity usually happens with the ingestion of dietary tablets, toothpaste, or other dental products. Your kid may swallow large amounts from that uncontrollably. Nausea or vomiting are some common signs of toxicity. So, try to get these products out of children’s reach. Infants and very young children are usually the ones who can be at higher risk.
Dental fluorosis is another problem that affects the enamel of teeth (mottled enamel). It is a dental condition caused by the consumption of high amounts of fluoride during teeth development in children younger than 8 years old. Parents need to teach their children not to swallow the toothpaste and rinse it out during brushing.
Fluoride helps to remineralize the tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay. It makes our teeth strong and resistant to acid attacks. Today, people use various oral care products like toothpaste or mouthwash as part of their daily oral hygiene. So, it has contributed to achieving better oral health greatly.
This natural mineral is added in gels or varnish in higher concentrations for professional treatment. In some areas, it can be added to the water supply.
Finally, talk to your dentist to know more about the benefits and usage, and to achieve the recommended level. Also, if you have children, consult your dentist for the right amount both in your drinking water and before using any dental product.