Fluoride and your teeth

Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that helps prevent cavities by making enamel, the outer layer of our teeth, more resistant to decay. Enamel is made of closely packed mineral crystals that naturally increase and decrease every day. After we eat, the resulting plaque bacteria feeds on sugar and carbohydrates in our mouth, producing acid that dissolves the crystals in our tooth enamel, a process called demineralization. This loss, however, is usually offset by remineralization, whereupon minerals in our saliva, including fluoride, calcium and phosphate, are deposited back into the enamel.

If we lose more minerals than we gain, we risk tooth decay, which is why fluoride has become a key component of good dental health in both children and adults.

Because research has shown that drinking fluoridated water keeps teeth strong and reduces cavities by about 25% in children and adults, fluoridation became an official policy of the U.S. Public Health Service in 1951

Fluoride supports children’s developing teeth when it enters the bloodstream through food and drink. As part of the saliva in both kids and adults, it also strengthens teeth from the outside and helps thwart acids from damaging the tooth enamel. When fluoride is applied directly to teeth from toothpaste and dental treatments, it also helps the remineralization process.

Where to get Fluoride

Drinking Water

Fluoride is a mineral naturally found on earth and is transferred from rocks into the soil, water and air. All water sources, including rivers, lakes, wells and oceans, contain some fluoride. While some groundwater and natural springs can have naturally high levels of fluoride, most water sources don’t have enough to prevent tooth decay. Because research has shown that drinking fluoridated water keeps teeth strong and reduces cavities by about 25% in children and adults, fluoridation became an official policy of the U.S. Public Health Service in 1951, and by 1960, water fluoridation had become widely used in the U.S. Today, almost 75 percent of the U.S. population is served by fluoridated community water systems.

Fluoride Toothpaste and Mouth Wash

Ensure your toothpaste has the ADA Seal of Acceptance that endorses it having fluoride and brush at least twice a day.

Start brushing children’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste as soon as they start to appear in the mouth; for children younger than 3, you only need a light smear, no larger than a grain of rice. For children 3 to 6 years old, use no more than a pea-sized amount. Always supervise children during brushing and make sure they spit out most of the toothpaste. And avoid flavored toothpastes that might encourage swallowing.

Mouthwash with fluoride, which can be found in the dental aisle of most stores, can help make your teeth more resistant to decay, but children 6 years or younger should not use it unless it’s been recommended by a dentist, as they are more likely to ingest it.

Professional Treatments

Topical fluoride treatments administered during a dental treatment are applied as a gel, foam or varnish, and have a higher strength than over-the-counter or prescription mouthwashes or toothpastes. They are in the mouth for only a short time, but fluoride levels in the mouth remain higher for several hours afterward.

Fluoride Supplements

Fluoride supplements also are available by prescription. They usually are reserved for children aged 6 months to 16 years who live in areas without adequate amounts of fluoride in their community drinking water, and are at high risk of developing cavities.

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Posted In: Oral & Dental Health Tips