Fluoride is a natural mineral found in your bones and your teeth. You can also find fluoride in soil, rocks, plants, and even the air that you breathe. Toothpaste and mouthwashes use fluoride, and so does your local drinking water supply.
Fluoride was first introduced to drinking water in 1945 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Fifteen years later, tooth decay had decreased significantly. In fact, childhood cases of cavities decreased by as much as 70 percent after fluoride was added to drinking water. But what makes fluoride such a powerful tool in combating tooth decay? Below, we’ll outline exactly how fluoride decreases cavities and strengthens teeth.
Benefits of Fluoride
There are many benefits to fluoride as a regular part of oral hygiene. First, let’s take a look at what happens during digestion. As you eat, carbohydrates and sugars break down into acids. These acids wear away at your enamel (the white, protective layer around your teeth). As a result, your teeth become susceptible to decay and cavities. Fluoride helps rebuild enamel by restoring essential minerals.
Another benefit to fluoride is in managing the levels of bacteria in your mouth. This is because your mouth is a microbiome of “good” and “bad” bacteria. The good bacteria keep your mouth healthy and help digest food particles. Conversely, the bad bacteria contribute to bad breath, gum disease, and cavities. Fluoride can keep harmful bacteria from spreading, which minimizes damage from existing decay. Better yet, it has even been shown to reverse early signs of tooth decay in some dental patients.
Side Effects from Fluoride
There are minimal amounts of fluoride in drinking water, toothpaste, mouthwashes, and other dental products. While small amounts of fluoride are not harmful, high doses can have negative side effects. These include:
- Dental fluorosis: Dental fluorosis is the appearance of white spots on your teeth. This condition typically occurs in children under 8 years old. You can help your child avoid dental fluorosis by supervising their brushing to ensure that they aren’t swallowing toothpaste.
- Skeletal fluorosis: Skeletal fluorosis is extremely rare. This condition describes joint pain and stiffness caused by long-term exposure to high amounts of fluoride. If you have skeletal fluorosis, it could be a result of accidental contamination of drinking water.
Your dentist will administer a professional fluoride treatment in a gel, foam, or rinse. These treatments have much higher fluoride concentrations than what you will find in drinking water, toothpaste, or mouthwash. A fluoride treatment typically takes only a few minutes and has no side effects.
If you are at a higher risk of tooth decay, a professional fluoride treatment can ensure that your teeth are protected. You may want to consider a fluoride treatment if you:
- Have poor oral hygiene
- Have gone a long time without consistent dental care
- Suffer from dry mouth or an eating disorder
- Use drugs or alcohol excessively
Of course, the best way to know if you are a candidate for a professional fluoride treatment is to talk to your dentist. If you think you may be at risk for tooth decay, schedule an appointment with TruBlu Dentistry! We’ll be happy to address any existing decay during your appointment and recommend the best fluoride products to keep your mouth cavity-free.