Why is fluoride important?
Fluoride’s a natural mineral found in many foods and water. Every day, minerals are added and lost from a tooth’s enamel through two processes: demineralization and remineralization. Minerals are lost (demineralization) from the enamel layer when acids attack it.
Minerals such as fluoride, calcium and phosphate are redeposited (remineralization) to the enamel from the foods and waters. Too much demineralization without enough remineralization to repair the enamel layer leads to tooth decay.
How does fluoride prevent tooth decay?
Fluoride helps by making the tooth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria and sugars. It also reverses early decay. In children under 6 years of age, fluoride becomes incorporated into the development of permanent teeth, making it difficult for acids to demineralize the teeth. Fluoride also helps speed remineralization and disrupts acid production in the teeth of both children and adults.
When’s fluoride intake most critical?
It’s definitely important for infants and children between the ages of 6 months and 16 years. This is when the primary and permanent teeth come in. However, adults benefit from fluoride, too. New research indicates that topical fluoride from toothpastes, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments are as important in fighting decay as in strengthening developing teeth.
Where is fluoride available?
Fluoride’s found in foods and in water. It can also be directly applied to the teeth through fluoridated toothpastes and mouth rinses. Mouth rinses containing fluoride in lower strengths are available over-the-counter; stronger concentrations require a doctor’s prescription.