Fluoride originates from a naturally occurring element called fluorine. Fluoride compounds are contained in rocks and soil, and form fluoride ions when water passes over them. Fluoride is present to some degree in all water sources, foods and beverages. Fluoride helps to prevent cavities when used in two ways: topically and systemically.
Topical (on the surface) application of fluoride occurs with the use of fluoride containing toothpaste, mouth rinses, professionally applied gels, foams, rinses and from our own saliva. Topical use of fluoride helps to prevent cavities by strengthening the surface of the teeth (the enamel), reducing the ability of bacteria contained in dental plaque to produce acid, and by re-mineralizing existing dental cavities. Fluoride can actually heal small cavities in some cases and prevent the need for dental fillings.
Systemically (throughout the body), fluoride is obtained when ingested via water and other beverages, foods, drops, tablets and other sources. A major function of fluoride taken systemically is the strengthening of developing teeth from infancy to adolescence. Fluoride strengthens teeth by the formation of harder enamel (hydroxyapatite crystals are converted to fluorapatite) that is less vulnerable to damage from plaque acids. Fluoride that is taken systemically is helpful to adults and seniors because it is a component of saliva, where it provides topical protection against cavities.
Mass water fluoridation (addition of fluoride to community water supplies) is the most cost-effective measure available to reduce the incidence of tooth decay. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the acceptable tap water concentration for fluoride is 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million. Much higher levels have been associated with chalky white discolorations of the teeth known as fluorosis. Numerous studies in the United States and around the world have proven that fluoridated water at these levels reduces the incidence of cavities in children and adults from 25-60% or more.
Some people worry about the safety of fluoride in drinking water. Research has demonstrated that fluoridated water that occurs naturally, or is adjusted to optimal levels (0.7-1.2 ppm.) by adding it to the water supply, has no adverse health consequences. After fluoride is ingested, about half of it is removed through the kidneys, and nearly all of the remaining is deposited in the bones and teeth (from infancy to adolescence).
Fluoride is the one of the most significant ingredients to help prevent or reduce the incidence of dental cavities. The use of fluoride in conjunction with brushing teeth, flossing and visiting the dentist regularly is the most likely way to get your dentist to say what all patients love to hear, "No cavities, I'll see you in six months!"
Remember, only a dentist can diagnose your dental problems and offer the right treatment plan for you. If you need a dentist, call us at 1-866-970-0441 to be connected with one today.