What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in many foods and water. Every day, minerals are lost from and added to a tooth’s enamel layer through two processes, demineralization and remineralization. Minerals are lost (demineralization) from a tooth’s enamel layer when acids attack the enamel. These acids are formed from plaque, bacteria, and sugars in the mouth from food and debris left behind after a meal. Minerals such as fluoride, calcium, and phosphate are redeposited (remineralization) to the enamel layer from the foods and water consumed. Too much demineralization without enough remineralization to repair the enamel layer leads to tooth decay.
Why does fluoride help prevent tooth decay?
Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making the tooth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque, bacteria, and sugars in the mouth as well as reverses early decay. In children under six years of age, fluoride becomes incorporated into the development of permanent teeth, making it difficult for acids to demineralize the teeth. fluoride also helps speed remineralization as well as disrupts acid production in already erupted teeth of both children and adults.
Where is fluoride found?
Fluoride is found in many different foods and in the water and can also be directly applied to the teeth through fluoridated toothpastes and mouth rinses. Mouth rinses containing fluoride in lower strengths are available over-the-counter; stronger concentrations require a prescription.
Is there fluoride in bottled water?
Bottled water for the most part does NOT contain fluoride. Please read the labels carefully. Dannon water does have a product line containing the same parts per million (ppm) of fluoride as regular tap water and they bottle it in a snack pack size for easy use in your or your child’s lunch box.
When is the appropriate timing for fluoride treatments?
Fluoride is important for infants and children between the ages of 6 months and 16 years. During this time, the primary and permanent teeth erupt in the mouth.
Adults also benefit greatly from fluoride. Research indicates that topical fluoride is important in fighting tooth decay, strengthening demineralized areas of teeth, decreasing sensitivity and has antibacterial properties.
Who can benefit from regular fluoride treatments?
Adults with certain conditions may be at increased risk of tooth decay and would therefore benefit from additional fluoride treatment. They include:
- Dry mouth conditions, such as Sjogrens Syndrome and Diabetes.
- Medications, such as antihistamines, anxiolytics, and high blood pressure medications.
- Head and neck radiation – patients become more susceptible to cavities due to lack of saliva.
- Gum disease (Gingivitis or Periodontitis) can expose the roots of your teeth which are more susceptible to decay and sensitivity.
- History of frequent cavities.
- Crowns, bridges, or braces.
Is fluoride safe?
Fluoride is safe and effective when used as directed but, like anything, can be hazardous at high doses (the “toxic” dosage level varies based on an individual’s weight). For this reason, it is important for parents to carefully supervise their children’s use of fluoride-containing products and to keep fluoride products out of reach of children, especially children under the age of 6.
Excess fluoride can cause defects in the tooth’s enamel that range from barely noticeable white specks or streaks to cosmetically objectionable brown discoloration. These defects are known as fluorosis and occur when the teeth are forming — usually in children under 6 years. Fluorosis, when it occurs, is usually associated with naturally occurring fluoride, such as that found in well water. If you use well water and are uncertain about the mineral (especially fluoride) content, a water sample should be tested. Keep in mind, however, that it’s very difficult to reach hazardous levels given the low levels of fluoride in home-based fluoride-containing products.
Although tooth staining from fluorosis cannot be removed with normal hygiene, we may be able to lighten or remove these stains with professional-strength abrasives, whitening products, a combination, or possibly other cosmetic procedures.
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