When you turn on the television and spot a commercial for toothpaste, all bets are in that the advertisement will highlight the presence of fluoride in the product. Fluoride is a mineral that you can find in water and most foods. However, like other substances in the body, fluoride can be lost but it can also be gained. There are different ways to gain fluoride – from brushing your teeth to including it in your diet. At the end of the day, the fluoride plays a big role in keeping our teeth healthy.
The job of fluoride
Fluoride is a mineral that contributes to the health of our teeth by preventing tooth decay. In certain areas of the world, fluoridation of the water has been proven to reduce the total number of dental caries (tooth decay) cases with regular intake. But how does it protect our teeth? Through the process of remineralization, fluoride is deposited to our teeth, strengthening it against the attack of acid-producing bacteria – the major cause of cavities and tooth decay.
Losing fluoride and gaining it
There are two processes that contribute to the loss and gain of fluoride in our teeth: remineralization and demineralization. The latter happens when the minerals that make up are teeth are lost and eroded by acids which come from plaque bacteria that cover our teeth. Whenever we don’t brush our teeth or eat too much sugary food, plaque can develop on which then becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria then use the sugar from sweet foods to produce acid, which then destroy the enamel or hard covering of a tooth – including the minerals.
Remineralization is a process that helps deposit more minerals to our teeth after demineralization. Fluoride, calcium, and phosphate are redeposited on the areas where the minerals are lacking, preventing tooth decay. This happens by taking in fluoride and other minerals to make up for the losses caused by demineralization.
There are many fluoride sources available for mass consumption today, primarily in the form of fluoridated water and toothpaste. Water fluoridation is a controlled addition of fluoride into the public water supply to help prevent tooth decay in the population. A certain level of fluoride in every day drinking water has been proven by the WHO to reduce the cases of dental caries in affected populations. By taking in fluoride regularly, there are is a consistent low level of fluoride in our body’s saliva, which greatly reduces the rate at which demineralization occurs.
Similary, fluoride can be found in fluoride toothpastes and topical gels. Toothpastes and mouthwashes contain low levels of fluoride that are directly applied to the tooth to help prevent decay. Topical gels are also available, but only by prescription, because of higher levels of fluoride contained in the substance.
If you need an appointment with a dentist to get your teeth checked out, we offer a variety of consultation services at Greenspoint Dental to help you out. Give us a call and schedule an appointment today.