A big part of your dental cleaning and prevention program involves the use of fluoride. It’s a word everyone recognizes, but some people may not know the many benefits of fluoride. Let’s look at some frequently asked questions.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a natural mineral that’s found in many foods and water, explains WebMD. It’s important for your teeth because the outer layer, called enamel, is the hardest and most highly mineralized substance in your body.
Why is enamel important?
Enamel helps to protect your teeth from decay, so preventing erosion or weakening is very important. Enamel protects the sensitive inner layers of your teeth from hot or cold foods and drinks. It also acts as a strong barrier that safeguards the inner layers of your teeth from the effects of acids and plaque.
How do acids and plaque harm teeth?
Acids formed from the bacteria in plaque and sugars in your mouth attack the enamel layer of your teeth, in a process called demineralization. When too much of this occurs, your teeth are susceptible to tooth decay, or cavities.
So how does fluoride help this?
When you eat foods and drink water that contain minerals such as fluoride, phosphate, and calcium, they are redeposited onto the enamel layer of your teeth. This is called remineralization. This process helps to repair the enamel layer and prevent tooth decay.
Not only does fluoride help to prevent tooth decay by making your teeth more resistant to the acids found in plaque and sugars, but it also reverses early decay. It helps to speed up the remineralization process in both children and adults.
Why is fluoride important for children?
As soon as your child has a tooth, your pediatrician may recommend fluoride varnish treatments two to four times a year to help prevent tooth decay. It’s important to expose infants and children between the ages of 6 months and 16 years to fluoride because this is when their primary and permanent teeth come in.
What are good sources of fluoride?
It’s also found in most community water supplies. Approximately 62% of the U.S. population served by public water supplies has access to adequate levels of fluoride in their water, and 43 of the 50 largest U.S. cities have water fluoridation systems, reports WebMD.
The American Dental Association notes “Community water fluoridation is so effective at preventing tooth decay that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named it one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.”
You can find out how much fluoride is in your community tap water by asking your family dentist or contacting your local water supplier or health department.
Your dentist can also apply a fluoride varnish to your teeth after a cleaning to strengthen them and make them more resistant to cavities.