Fluoride is the main ingredient in toothpaste and an additive to municipal water supplies, but what does it do?
Surprisingly, this mineral does much more for your teeth than you may think. The benefits of fluoride are many for your oral health. At Langley Dental Care, we’ve created a guide to help you better appreciate this invaluable mineral and what it does for your teeth.
Fluoride is a mineral present in water, rocks, plants, and elsewhere in nature. Some water sources naturally have this mineral in them. In fact, naturally occurring fluoride in water led to the discovery that it could benefit teeth by reducing the incidence of cavities.
In 1901, a dentist in Colorado Springs, CO, noted that many of his patients had slightly discolored teeth. However, this discoloration was only cosmetic. They also had a lower incidence of cavities than expected. The connection between fluoride and reduction in cavities did not occur until 1930 when testing methods allowed for the amount of fluoride in the water to be accurately measured.
Later, testing the area’s water showed that it had very high fluoride levels (2.0 to 12.0 ppm) – much higher than the fluoride levels added to today’s community water supplies (a maximum of 0.7 ppm). The excessive fluoride caused tooth discoloration but also protected teeth from cavities.
By reducing the fluoride amount added to city water slightly, officials struck a balance between cavity prevention and avoiding tooth discoloration, and fluoridating water reduced cavities (dental caries) in children by 68% from the 1960s through the 1990s. Plus, adults who drink fluoridated water have 20% to 40% fewer enamel cavities than those who don’t.
The benefits of fluoride in preventing cavities come from two main actions. First, when you eat or drink products containing fluoride, the mineral goes into your body, where it has a systemic effect on helping the teeth from the inside out.
Oral care products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash containing fluoride, directly affect teeth, producing topical effects to remineralize enamel. The same topical effect also happens when you drink fluoridated water.
The benefits of fluoride for your mouth are many. The ability to prevent cavities in people is so significant that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked fluoridating water supplies among the top ten greatest achievements in public health of the 20th century. When you recognize how many benefits fluoride provides for your teeth, you will have a better appreciation for fluoridated community water and fluoride-containing toothpaste and oral care products.
First, fluoride slows tooth decay and prevents cavities. It is one major reason why toothpaste contains fluoride. In some cases, it can even reverse minor indications of decay starting in a tooth.
The tooth enamel can weaken over time. However, fluoride can strengthen the enamel by remineralizing it. Stronger tooth enamel helps to protect the teeth from cavities.
Bacteria are at the root of dental caries. To protect against cavities, you should brush your teeth and floss to deprive the bacteria of food. Fluoride can also control this bacterial growth inside your mouth, further helping to prevent cavities.
Tooth enamel can lose minerals, causing it to weaken. While fluoride can help strengthen weakened enamel, it can also protect it from losing minerals in the first place.
For optimum oral health, you should have access to fluoride in some capacity. Check with your local water supply to see if they fluoridate the water. Not all communities add fluoride. The amount of fluoride added to local water supplies has been proven multiple times through various studies to be safe and a good way of protecting the population from dental decay.
One problem with fluoridated tap water comes from the number of people who prefer alternatives. If you drink bottled water or have a water filter at home, you may not get fluoride from drinking water. Therefore, you should make an extra effort to keep a healthy regime of brushing, flossing, and rinsing with fluoride-based mouthwash.
Make sure that you use fluoride-based toothpaste. These products apply fluoride directly to the teeth, where the mineral provides the maximum benefits. Don’t eat or drink anything for at least half an hour after brushing to keep the fluoride in contact with your teeth long enough for it to do its job.
Fluoride-containing mouthwash may also protect you from dental caries. Talk to your dentist about a recommendation. Depending on your teeth, you may need a professional fluoride treatment.
While you can maintain good health with help from the benefits of fluoride, you should not rely on this mineral alone to protect your teeth from cavities. You still need a good regime for oral hygiene. This includes:
Clearly, fluoride plays a significant role in helping you to keep your teeth healthy. However, you must partner with a dentist and maintain good personal oral hygiene habits to get fluoride’s full benefits. With good dental care, you can avoid the pain of cavities and the hassle of getting fillings. Plus, by protecting yourself from dental decay, you have a greater chance of keeping your teeth for life.
While fluoride benefits can help you protect your teeth from cavities, you also need routine dental care to keep them healthy. For all your dental health needs, including restorative, cosmetic, and preventative, contact us at Langley Dental Care in Charlotte, NC. With Dr. Langley’s professional care and good oral hygiene, you can have a healthy smile that you feel good about showing off to the world.