Fluoride has been used in dentistry for the last 70 years due to its ability to prevent tooth decay by strengthening tooth enamel. It is a common ingredient in toothpaste and mouthwash, and is also applied to the teeth by dentists as the final step of preventative dental cleanings. In some communities, it is even found in the drinking water.
Fluoride is a mineral derived from a component of the earth’s crust called fluorine. Fluorine is the 13th most abundant element in the world and is found in a variety of sources such as soil, rocks, and water. It is often extracted from phosphate rocks, which is the same source of the phosphoric acid found in Coke and Pepsi.
To understand why fluoride is so popular in the dental world, we need to understand its various benefits. Here are some of the many benefits of fluoride:
Strengthens Tooth Enamel
Fluoride strengthens the tooth enamel by helping the body absorb calcium and phosphate to combat demineralization. Calcium and phosphate are two of the main components of tooth enamel and are essential for the remineralization of weak enamel. In this way, fluoride helps to strengthen the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to tooth decay. In addition to preventing tooth decay, fluoride can also slow decay and repair parts of the tooth where decay has just begun.
Prevent Premature Tooth Loss
Since fluoride helps to keep your children’s teeth healthy, there is a decreased risk of them becoming decayed and falling out prematurely. When baby teeth fall out prematurely due to decay or other reasons, this can cause problems down the line once the adult teeth begin to erupt. Even though your child’s baby teeth will eventually be replaced with permanent teeth, it is still necessary to keep their baby teeth healthy and intact until they naturally fall out.
Saves You Money
By strengthening your child’s tooth enamel and regulating bacterial populations in their mouth, fluoride helps to prevent the formation of dental cavities and minimizes the damage when they do occur. Not only does this prevent your child from needing to undergo restorative dental treatment, but it prevents you from needing to spend money on costly restorative treatments.
Stunt Bacterial Growth
There are several different types of naturally occurring bacteria in your child’s mouth. Although some of this bacteria is helpful, too much bacteria can result in both gum disease and tooth decay. Fluoride helps to regulate the bacterial populations in your child’s mouth by harming the bacteria responsible for causing tooth decay.
Safe for Children
Some people are concerned about the safety of fluoride, however various medical and health organizations state that fluoride is safe when used correctly. The amount of fluoride in toothpaste and dental treatments is relatively low and should not cause any problems. The majority of fluoride consumption actually comes from drinking water, juice, and soft drinks, and it is estimated that this accounts for 75% of your child’s total fluoride intake. With that being said, it is possible to use too much fluoride, although this is rare. In most cases, white specks or brown stains on the teeth can indicate the presence of too much fluoride. This can easily be corrected by your pediatric dentist.
Dr. Leyster is a board-certified pediatric dental specialist. He is recognized as a Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. He has served as faculty as an Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry in the Division of Public Health and Pediatric Dentistry. Dr. Leyster belongs to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, California Society of Pediatric Dentistry, California Dental Association, Pacific Northwest Dental Association, and the American Dental Association.