Among several recommendations in preventing cavities by your dentist Cary NC is the use of fluoride. Studied extensively for decades, fluoride exposure has been proven to prevent dental decay. Because of its role in protecting teeth, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention considers fluoridation of drinking water one of the ten greatest health achievements in the US in the 20th century.
What is Fluoride and How Does it Prevent Cavities?
Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in water, soil, rock and many foods. When exposed to fluoride, teeth can become more resistant to cavities.
The outer layer of your teeth, enamel, is made primarily of the minerals calcium and phosphate, collectively called hydroxyapetite. All day, the enamel loses and gains minerals. Minerals are lost when acids -formed by plaque bacteria and carbohydrates -attack the enamel. This is called demineralization. When calcium, phosphate and fluoride- from foods, water, and saliva-penetrate the enamel, remineralization occurs. But if there is more decalcification than remineralization, cavities start to form. When fluoride is present and part of the remineralization process, it forms a tough layer called fluorapetite. Fluorapetite is even stronger and better than hydroxyapetite in resisting decay. And fluoride can even reverse early decay.
Where is Fluoride Available?
Most community water supplies in the United States contain fluoride. Adjustments are made to the level of fluoride in drinking water to obtain optimal amounts for prevention of tooth decay. Grand Rapids, Michigan was the first city to begin adding fluoride to its water system, back in 1945. Since that time, community water fluoridation has been controversial. Years of rigorous scientific study, however, have shown water fluoridation at appropriate levels to be effective and safe. Currently, the U.S. Public Health Service recommends the fluoride to water ratio be 0.7 parts per million, an amount that takes into consideration exposure to other sources of fluoride.
Fluoride is found in certain foods, fluoridated toothpastes and mouthrinses. In addition, your dentist Cary NC can apply fluoride to your teeth as a foam or varnish. These treatments contain much higher levels of fluoride found in toothpastes and mouthrinses. Varnishes are painted on teeth and foams are placed in trays which then sit on teeth for one to four minutes.
Who Benefits From Fluoride?
Both children and adults reap the cavity fighting benefits of fluoride. Infants and children from six months to 16 years need appropriate levels of fluoride as primary and permanent teeth come in during these years. Topical fluorides – from toothpastes, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments – are as important in fighting tooth decay as in strengthening developing teeth.
Conditions that may put adults at higher risk of tooth decay and would benefit from additional fluoride include:
- Dry mouth, caused by certain diseases, such as Sjogren’s Syndrome, certain medications and radiation to the head and neck. Without saliva, teeth are more prone to cavities, because the acids formed during eating cannot be neutralized and remineralization is halted.
- Gum disease, which exposes more of the root surface to cavity causing bacteria.
- History of frequent cavities
- Having crowns or bridges, where risk of decay is higher at the crown/tooth interface.
If you are concerned about your risk for developing cavities, talk with your dentist Cary NC about how you may benefit from the various forms of fluoride.