Fluoride. We hear the word a lot, especially related to dental health.
But why does fluoride matter? Do adults really need it, or is it just for kids? What even is it? Excellent questions! In short, fluoride matters because it is essential in protecting your teeth. It helps maintain strong tooth enamel and overall dental health for patients of all ages. We do need it to fight tooth decay, and you may be surprised when you learn its origin. Read on to discover more about our good friend, fluoride.
What is Fluoride?
We know that it’s an ingredient in most toothpaste and mouthwash due to its cavity-fighting properties. But did you know that it’s an abundant, naturally occurring mineral? It’s a compound of fluorine (the 13th most abundant element on earth) and salt. Fluoride exists nearly everywhere: water, soil, plants, and air, as well as in our teeth and bones.
How does it get there? Rocks contain fluoride. Fluoride leaches from the rock and dissolves in ground and surface water. Plants and soil absorb that water, and humans consume it. Fluoride is essential in strengthening tooth enamel. It’s safe and effective with few side effects or dangers. That’s why additional fluoride might be added to drinking water and why your dentist strongly recommends it to prevent tooth decay for patients of all ages.
How Fluoride Fights Cavities
According to the American Dental Association, dental cavities are the most common disease for children and adults worldwide. Treating cavities is important, but preventing them is even more vital. That’s where fluoride plays a key role.
When acids from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth attack the tooth enamel, fluoride fights back. Mineral loss is inevitable and occurs every time we eat, no matter what we eat. Fluoride prevents cavities by remineralizing and strengthening tooth enamel, helping neutralize the acid that causes tooth decay. Before a child’s permanent teeth erupt, fluoride from food, beverages, and dietary supplements helps enamel harden, making emerging teeth more resistant to decay.
Best Way to Get Fluoride
Getting an adequate amount is easy for most people in the US. Fluoridated drinking water and fluoride-infused toothpaste are widely available. Adults and children should be getting enough from those two sources combined. However, it is worth noting that most bottled waters do not contain fluoride. Drinking filtered or unfiltered tap water at home is the best bet for adequate fluoride consumption. Some bottled water brands do add fluoride, though, so be sure to check the label.
If you don’t have access to fluoridated water, you may require a supplement. Prescription toothpaste or mouth rinse is available, as are pills and tablets. Some multivitamins also contain small amounts of fluoride. Additionally, your dentist can provide fluoride treatments in the office. Fluoride varnish coats the teeth and encourages stronger enamel. Though fluoride treatments are often associated with children who have developing teeth, they are appropriate for kids and adults alike.
Is it Possible to Reverse Tooth Decay?
Can tooth decay be reversed? Yes and no. If the decay affects only the enamel, keeping the area clean and fluoridated can prevent further deterioration. Prevention is key. Brush twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste, floss, and see your dentist regularly. Tooth decay that has progressed to the dentin, or the hard, dense, bony tissue beneath the enamel, can be corrected with dental procedures like fillings, root canal, or cosmetic dentistry but cannot be reversed.
Fluoride’s natural ability to neutralize acid and rebuild enamel makes it essential for good dental health. Though we are all likely getting enough daily thanks to toothpaste and drinking water, it’s best to talk to your dentist about your specific needs. Fluoride benefits both children and adults, helping your smile last a lifetime. Call Bass Dentistry today to learn more about our treatment options and recommendations for the whole family.
If dental health is important to you and your family, take steps to know how to keep your gums healthy. Gum health is essential to maintaining healthy teeth and overall good dental hygiene. Brush and floss multiple times per day, avoid tobacco products, and use a therapeutic mouthwash.
If you want to know more about maintaining a healthy smile, book an appointment today with Bass Dentistry.