Tooth enamel requires fluoride to be strong and healthy. However, minerals such as fluoride are lost when attacked by acid which has been formed from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth. As it occurs naturally in water and many food items, fluoride from these sources can remineralize teeth. Yet as time goes by, if the amount of demineralization is greater than the minerals required to repair tooth enamel, the result is tooth decay.
How does fluoride prevent tooth decay?
Fluoride is useful in preventing tooth decay by strengthening teeth and making them more resistant to the attacks from bacteria and sugars in the mouth. Also, if tooth decay has just started, it can be reversed with fluoride. Fluoride is very effective at remineralizing teeth and disrupting the production of acid in the mouth, thus protecting the teeth of both children and adults.
Are there different sources of fluoride to protect teeth?
You can obtain fluoride through your food and water. You can also get it by applying it directly to your teeth through the use of toothpaste that includes it or by using mouthwashes that have it. You can buy these fluoride rinses over the counter or get a stronger concentration with a doctor’s prescription.
During a visit to the dentist, fluoride can be applied to your teeth as either gel, varnish, or foam. These include a much higher concentration of fluoride than what you can get through mouth rinses or toothpaste.
If your dentist determines that your need for fluoride is much greater than what any of the above methods deliver, you might be prescribed fluoride supplements in either tablets or liquid.
Is fluoride more critical at certain points in life?
Children between six months and sixteen years need to be exposed to fluoride to make sure their teeth are as protected as possible. During this time, they will lose their baby teeth and their permanent teeth will come in. Fluoride will strengthen their developing teeth and prevent them from tooth decay.
Recent studies have also shown that even teeth that are already fully mature benefit from the power of fluoride.
What conditions make it more crucial for people to require fluoride?
Certain conditions put people at a higher risk of tooth decay. Among them:
- Frequent cavities – If you regularly have cavities, ask your doctor for extra fluoride.
- Braces, bridges, or crowns – Where these appliances meet the tooth structure, tooth decay may appear. Fluoride can help prevent it.
- Gum disease or periodontitis – This condition can expose more of your tooth to bacteria and result in tooth decay.
- Dry mouth – Caused by many conditions, dry mouth can make it easier for acids and food particles to remain near teeth, provoking tooth decay.
If you suffer from any of the above, talk with your dentist about additional fluoride for your teeth.
Are there any risks associated with the use of fluoride?
Although safe and effective, fluoride can turn hazardous if used in high quantities. That is why it is so important for parents to monitor the amount of fluoride their children use. Too much fluoride can cause defects in teeth, particularly in children when their teeth are just forming.
If you or your children have suffered tooth decay due to lack of fluoride, you should make an appointment with your dentist in Charlotte, NC right away.