What is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is released from rocks into the air, soil, and water. Virtually all water on earth contains some amount of fluorite, though typically not enough to help with the prevention of tooth decay. Fluoride is also often added to drinking water supplies as a public health act to help reduce instances of cavities. Decision-making involving fluoride in drinking water is usually made at the municipal level.
Fluoride is an essential mineral for maintaining and protecting our teeth. Fluoride can be found occurring naturally in the following:
What is Fluoride Used For?
Fluoride is widely used in the dental industry to strengthen tooth enamel, the protective outer layer of the teeth. Fluoride can be found in drinking water, as mentioned above, as well as in a wide variety of over-the-counter items such as:
Your dentist may recommend the use of a prescription mouthwash that contains fluoride if you are particularly at risk of developing cavities. These prescription mouthwashes have a higher concentration of fluoride than over-the-counter products do.
What is a Professional Fluoride Treatment?
One of the most common uses of fluoride is in professional fluoride treatments at your dentist’s office. Dentists provide these treatments in a variety of forms, from a highly concentrated mouth rinse, foam, varnish, or gel. The treatment is typically applied with a brush, swab, tray, or mouthwash. These treatments contain a much higher concentration of fluoride than in drinking water or over-the-counter toothpaste and only take a few minutes to apply. Your dentist may advise you to refrain from eating or drinking for 30 minutes after the treatment to allow the fluoride time to become fully absorbed into the enamel.
What Are The Benefits of Fluoride?
Fluoride has many benefits for teeth and oral health including:
Re-Building Weakened Tooth Enamel
Slowing Down Mineral Loss from Tooth Enamel
Reversing the Early Signs of Tooth Decay
Prevention of Harmful Oral Bacterial Growth
Research showed that the average number of lost or decaying teeth in children dropped by 68% following the introduction of fluoride in drinking water, professional treatment, and toothpaste.
How Does Fluoride Work to Prevent Tooth Decay and Cavities?
Fluoride works to prevent tooth decay (and in some cases can help to reverse the process of tooth decay) by strengthening and maintaining the solid layer of enamel. Tooth decay is the result of certain bacteria within the mouth. When we eat highly sugary foods or other refined carbohydrates, the bacteria produce an acid that removes essential minerals from the tooth’s surface. Fluoride helps to prevent cavities from forming by remineralizing the surface of the tooth.
How Much Fluoride Is Best?
If you live in an area with fluoridated drinking water and follow the recommended oral health practices by your dentist, you are receiving the optimal level of fluoride to prevent tooth decay and cavities.
Children can begin using toothpaste with fluoride at age 2. For children who are under the age of 2, consult with your doctor or dentist about introducing fluoride toothpaste. It is recommended that children under the age of 6 use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and that they spit out any excess. It is also important to rinse their mouth well with water after brushing.
Is Fluoride Safe?
There have been countless studies done all over the world about the safety of fluoride. Over the course of the last 50-plus years, scientists and researchers have concluded that fluoride levels in toothpaste, mouthwashes, and drinking water, provide valuable benefits to dental health. At these levels of concentration, fluoride causes no harmful side effects to our general health and wellness.
More than 300 million people drink fluoridated water around the world. Millions more use fluoride toothpaste twice daily. The addition of fluoride to drinking water and toothpaste has been proven to be safe and incredibly beneficial when it comes to improving dental health.
The Bottom Line
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally and is used in a wide variety of oral health products to prevent cavities and strengthen enamel. Fluoride is also often added to regional water supplies in many cities across Canada.
The best way to make sure you are getting enough fluoride to maintain optimal health and condition of your teeth is to brush twice daily with toothpaste containing fluoride, floss once daily, and visit your dentist every 6 months for a routine checkup and cleaning.
If you want to learn more about the safety of fluoride and its many benefits or to schedule an appointment with our team, contact our Guelph dentist’s office today!