If you know even a small amount of information about dental care, you have likely heard of fluoride. You can find this substance in your toothpaste and you might have heard that some water supplies also contain it. What exactly does fluoride do? Find out more about how fluoride prevents the creation of tooth decay and cavities.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that you can usually find in water, as well as certain food and in fluorite. More specifically, fluoride is an ion that is reduced from fluorine, one of the most common elements on Earth. Fluoride is primarily known for how it prevents tooth decay that leads to cavities. It can prevent such conditions by three different methods.
Fluoride Remineralizes Teeth
Tooth decay usually occurs when acidic bacteria in plaque destroy the outer layer of the teeth called the enamel. This loss in minerals weakens teeth to the point where it can cause cavities. A good application of fluoride replenishes the mineral levels in teeth, a process known as remineralization. Fluoride not only brings minerals back to the tooth layer but also attracts other minerals such as calcium, which improves the remineralization process.
Protects From Demineralization
In addition to undoing the effects from demineralization, fluoride also provides stronger protection against future demineralization attempts. Specifically, fluoride’s remineralization process leads to the creation of a tooth material that manages to stay even more resistant to acidic bacteria than the other typical mineral components found in teeth.
Has Antibacterial Properties
Not only can fluoride restore mineral levels to the teeth and provide stronger protection against the acid that bacteria produce, but it can also combat the bacteria that cause the condition in the first place. Fluoride can specifically inhibit bacterial enzymes. These enzymes are necessary for bacteria to consume sugars, which is the main form of nutrition for the bacteria. Fluoride is available in both regular over-the-counter and prescription products.
How to use fluoride to keep your teeth strong against decay:
- Use toothpaste with an ADA-approved amount of fluoride
- Let toothpaste linger instead of immediately washing it
- Talk to your dentist about other fluoridated products such as mouth rinses
- See your dentist or hygienist regularly for cleanings and in-office fluoride treatments
Fluoride is a beneficial mineral that helps you maintain your teeth free from decay and cavities.