Understanding the Benefits of Fluoride and Teeth
What is Fluoride and Where Is It Found?
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in some water supplies and in certain foods. Many water supplies in the US are fluoridated, but it’s highly likely that you also receive fluoride through using toothpaste and mouth rinse. In addition your dentist may offer fluoride treatments in the form of gel, varnish or mouth rinse in much stronger concentrations than can be purchased over-the-counter. Sometimes fluoride is prescribed as a supplement in the form of liquid or tablets by pediatricians, your family doctor or your dentist.
Why is it so Important for Teeth?
Your saliva consists of many different substances, including fluoride, as every time you brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste some of the ions remain in your saliva and on your teeth, helping to harden the tooth enamel (the hard outer coating on your teeth). This is important as every day your tooth enamel comes under attack from acids in the mouth that are formed after eating. This leads to a process called demineralization, where essential minerals such as calcium and phosphate are lost from the tooth enamel, softening it and increasing its vulnerability towards tooth decay.
After half an hour to an hour a process called re-mineralization takes place. As the mouth becomes less acidic some of the lost minerals are redeposited back into the tooth enamel as they will have remained in your saliva. In addition fluoride ions present in the saliva are also deposited into the tooth enamel helping to strengthen it. If re-mineralization cannot occur then the tooth enamel cannot re-harden and it’s more likely that the tooth will eventually become decayed.
Some People May Benefit from Additional Fluoride Treatments
Some people are more at risk of tooth decay than others, and they might benefit from additional fluoride treatments. This includes the people who have dry mouth or xerostomia, as the lack of saliva makes it harder for bacteria and excess food particles to be washed away. People with gum disease may be more at risk of tooth decay as this condition causes the gums to recede, exposing the tooth roots that do not have a protective layer of tooth enamel. If you have crowns or bridgework or wear a brace then bacteria are more easily trapped around these appliances, increasing the risk of cavities. If you have a history of frequently developing cavities then you may also benefit from additional fluoride treatments.
Fluoride and Children
Infants and children do need to be exposed to a certain amount of fluoride while their teeth are developing. Equally it is just as important they are not exposed to too much fluoride as this can lead to a condition called fluorosis, where the teeth develop white lacey flecks or even brown or black stains.
In addition too much fluoride can be toxic, so it is important for parents to supervise use of fluoride products and to keep items such as mouth wash out of reach. It is best to talk to your dentist at Midtown Dentistry about the use of fluoride, and for guidance on how much is necessary for your child.
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