Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that provides benefits to tooth enamel. When consumed in food, beverages or as a supplement, fluoride bonds with growing tooth structure to make the enamel stronger. The enamel is the hard outer portion of a tooth. The harder the enamel is, the more resistant it is to decay or cavities.
This type of fluoride treatment is called a systemic benefit. It is extremely important to children from 3 months old to at least age 10. During these ages, teeth are forming and growing within the jaw. The systemic fluoride, in the right amount, helps the forming enamel to be as strong and cavity resistant as possible.
In addition to systemic fluoride, it is important to expose your erupted teeth to fluoride. This is called topical fluoride. Topical fluoride helps rebuild or re-mineralize weakened enamel. In the right setting, fluoride can actually help reverse early tooth decay. Topical fluoride typically comes from fluoride in toothpaste, mouthwashes and water. The most effective way to receive topical fluoride is at your next dental visit. Fluoride varnish applied after a dental cleaning is the most effective topical fluoride available. Insist on it!
Interestingly, systemic fluoride becomes part of your saliva which constantly coats your teeth giving systemic fluoride a topical benefit as well.
The benefits of fluoride have been known for many years. In 1945 the city of Grand Rapids, MI became the first city to add fluoride to its public water system. Today almost 75% of public water systems add fluoride, including Wayland, MI. Studies show that water fluoridation helps prevent tooth decay by at least 25%. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has proclaimed community water fluoridation as one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.
If you get your water from a well you may be getting fluoride too. Many aquifers contain fluoride naturally. If you have a well, get the water tested. The right amount of fluoride is important. If your well water lacks sufficient fluoride your children should be getting a fluoride supplement. Supplements can be obtained in vitamins from your pediatrician or as a stand-alone prescription from your dentist.
So, if you want to take advantage of nature’s cavity fighter you should make sure you are using a fluoridated toothpaste. Any toothpaste with the American Dental Association seal is great. You can also consider a fluoridated mouthwash. Again look for the ADA seal. If your hygienist asks if you want a fluoride treatment, say “YES PLEASE!” And if you are unsure of your water system, call your city and ask, or have your well water tested and talk to your dental provider. Give your teeth all the advantages you can!
Thanks for reading,