Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that has been utilized for many years to help prevent tooth decay. Tooth decay begins when the bacteria and sugars present in the mouth form acids that erode the tooth’s protective enamel. These acids cause minerals to be lost from the tooth’s enamel layer, a process called demineralization. Left unchecked, this can lead to the formation of holes (cavities) in the teeth.
Fluoride helps strengthen the teeth through process called remineralization wherein the mineral bonds to weakened areas of tooth enamel. It also disrupts acid production, helping to inhibit the process that leads to tooth decay.
Fluoride can benefit people of all ages. Children who get adequate fluoride while their teeth are still forming will develop teeth that are stronger and more decay-resistant over a lifetime. Adults who are particularly susceptible to tooth decay also benefit from fluoride application.
While fluoride can help reverse early tooth decay and prevent cavities, it cannot heal cavities that have already formed. Therefore, it is a great and cost-effective strategy for maintaining dental health and preventing more expensive problems later on.
Don’t we get enough fluoride already?
Because the benefits of fluoride are widely recognized, the mineral is added in low concentrations to drinking water in many areas. It is also an ingredient in most toothpastes. However, children and individuals at increased risk of tooth decay can benefit from fluoride treatments that contain a much higher concentration of the mineral than is present in drinking water or in over-the-counter products. This type of treatment is only available from your dentist.