Fluoride is actually a chemical ion of fluorine, one of the top 20 most common elements in the earth’s crust. An ion is a positively- or negatively-charged atom that helps elements combine with one another. When fluorine, which is negatively charged, meets a positively-charged ion like sodium, cavity fighters are born.
When these fluoride compounds are in your mouth, they can actually make your teeth stronger and prevent cavities. They can even reverse early tooth decay.
We’re really lucky here in Birmingham, as our water has had fluroide added to it since 1964. Infact, we were the first city in the UK to have it, so our decay tooth decay rates are much lower than other areas of the UK. So anytime you drink or cook with tap water, you’re reaping the benefits of fluoride.
It’s also in your toothpaste, so it’s protecting your teeth every time you brush. Just make sure that you’re using a toothpaste with upwards of 1500 parts per million fluoride content, and you’ll be well away.
Enamel, the outer layer of the crown of a tooth, is made of closely packed mineral crystals. Every day, minerals are lost and gained from inside the enamel crystals. Losing minerals is called demineralization. Gaining them back is called remineralization.
Demineralization begins with the bacteria in the plaque on your teeth. They feed on sugar and other carbohydrates in your mouth and produce acids. The acids dissolve crystals in tooth enamel. The loss of enamel is balanced by remineralization. In this process, minerals in the saliva, such as fluoride, calcium and phosphate, are deposited back into the enamel. Too much loss of minerals without enough replacement leads to tooth decay.
Fluoride helps teeth in two ways. When children eat or drink fluoride in small doses, it enters the bloodstream and becomes part of their developing permanent teeth. Swallowed fluorides also become part of the saliva and strengthen teeth from the outside. Acids are less able to damage tooth enamel strengthened by fluoride.
In addition, people apply fluoride directly to their teeth when they use a fluoride toothpaste or rinse. Both children and adults also can receive fluoride treatments from the dentist. Fluoride applied to the outside of the teeth helps to speed remineralization. Fluoride treatments, applied in the dental office, also are strong enough to disrupt the production of acids by bacteria.
We often apply a fluroide varnish to children’s teeth to give them an extra bit of defence, and likewise if someone has the start of decay on a tooth. If its’ really early decay, we can actually stop the process using fluoride so it doesn’t get any worse.
Brushing your teeth thoroughly with fluoride toothpaste is one of the most effective ways of preventing tooth decay.
A range of toothpastes are available containing different levels of fluoride. The amount of fluoride in the toothpaste can be found on the side of the tube and is measured in parts per million (ppm).
Toothpastes containing 1,350 to 1,500ppm fluoride are the most effective. Your dentist may advise you to use higher-strength toothpaste if you or your child is at particular risk of tooth decay.
Don’t use mouthwash at the same time as brushing. Use it at an alternative time, because it washes away the fluoride in the toothpaste
There have been some concerns that fluoride may be linked to a variety of health conditions. Reviews of the risks have so far found no convincing evidence to support these concerns.
However, a condition called dental fluorosis can sometimes occur if a child’s teeth are exposed to too much fluoride when they’re developing. Read more about looking after children’s teeth and looking after your baby’s teeth.
Mild dental fluorosis can be seen as very fine pearly white lines or flecking on the surface of the teeth. Severe fluorosis can cause the tooth’s enamel to become pitted or discoloured.
It’s uncommon in the UK for fluorosis to be severe enough to seriously affect the appearance of teeth. This is because fluoride levels in water are carefully monitored by the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) and adjusted if necessary.
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