When it comes to dental hygiene, fluoride is a crucial component. For that reason, it is part of most toothpastes, mouthwashes, flosses, and even some fillings and cements. The American Dental Association highly recommends brushing, rinsing, and even flossing with fluoride oral health products. However, how does fluoride help your teeth?
Here’s how fluoride helps your teeth – and why it’s so important to your daily oral hygiene routine.
What is Fluoride?
Contrary to popular belief, fluoride is not a chemical additive. On the contrary, it’s all natural! Fluoride is an organically occurring mineral found in the Earth’s crust. It also appears throughout nature, such as in natural water supplies and in some foods. Water companies commonly add fluoride to water supplies that contain lower levels than they should. This can make for less tooth decay and healthier smiles for those who drink it! The American Dental Association refers to fluoride as “nature’s cavity fighter.”
How Does Fluoride Help Your Teeth?
Your mouth goes through a demineralization process as well as a remineralization process. Demineralization is affected by bacteria found in plaque. This bacteria feeds off the sugar and other carbohydrates in your mouth. The result? Acidic saliva production that weakness then enamel of your teeth. However, using fluoride helps to protect your mouth against the demineralization process by strengthening the enamel of your teeth. Therefore, it prevents tooth decay.
On the other hand, there are times when your saliva is not acidic enough, resulting in a loss of minerals. Without a balance of minerals in the mouth, tooth decay is prevalent. However, fluoride helps to replenish the levels of calcium and phosphate ions in your saliva to strengthen the teeth, which is otherwise known as remineralization.
Fluoride is especially important for children. When children intake small amounts of fluoride through eating or drinking, it enters their bloodstream and aids the development of their second set of permanent teeth. When you brush, fluoride can mix with saliva and protect the outside teeth as a barrier against plaque buildup. In addition, it can help prevent future tooth decay. For these reasons, fluoride keeps your teeth strong, healthy, and protected against tooth sensitivity and damage.
Is Fluoride Safe?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that the benefits and safety of fluoride use are well documented. Additionally, there is no scientific evidence that fluoride may have adverse side effects when used daily.
Finally, a word of caution: fluoride has amazing benefits when used properly and in appropriate amounts. However, there is such a thing as over-doing it with fluoride. Dental fluorosis is a childhood condition that discolors the teeth due to too much fluoride use at a young age. This occurs when children swallow fluoride toothpaste frequently. Now, this condition is not proven to be harmful to the health of the child. Regardless, it’s best to always supervise children when they brush their teeth.
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