What Do You Really Know About Fluoride?

You think you know fluoride, eh? Beyond its inclusion on virtually every toothpaste and mouthwash, what else do you know about this compound of the element fluorine?

If you’re a boomer, you probably first started hearing about fluoride when you were a little kid in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. This was the time fluoride was being added to municipal water supplies based on research that had started around the turn of the century that showed a direct link between fluoride and the prevention of dental cavities.

The first city to add fluoride to its drinking water was Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1945. That city was intended as a study that was to last 15 years, but the success rate was so high, the study was deemed an overwhelming success after just 11 years. How successful? The rate of Grand Rapids children who had developed cavities had dropped by 60% over the course of those 11 years!

Today, fluoride is everywhere. You’ll find it in most toothpastes, mouthwashes, and other dental products. You’ll find it in most municipal water supplies (it occurs in water naturally and it is also added by most cities). Fluoride is a proven ally in the fight against dental decay.

Still, you’ll occasionally hear some crazed fringe group talk about taking fluoride out of the water and other products because it’s a government conspiracy to control our minds. Uh, right. Those people advocating such nonsense probably need fluoride’s benefits more than anyone!

Since Dr. Miller likes his patients to know as much as possible about dental hygiene, here is some background info on fluoride that you may not have known.

What is fluoride and how does it protect the teeth?

fluorideYour mouth every day is like a mine, with minerals coming and going. Minerals are added to and lost from a tooth’s enamel layer through two processes, demineralization and remineralization. Demineralization is the problem. Minerals are lost from a tooth’s enamel layer when acids, formed from the bacteria in plaque and sugars in the mouth, attack the enamel. Fortunately, when you eat foods and drink water, minerals such as fluoride, calcium, and phosphate remineralize the teeth. Therein lies the ongoing battle — too much demineralization without remineralization results in tooth decay.

Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in many foods and water. It helps prevent tooth decay by making the tooth enamel more resistant to those acids from bacteria and sugars in the mouth. Fluoride also has the cool effect of reversing early cases of decay. For kids under 6, fluoride becomes incorporated into the development of permanent teeth. This makes the teeth resistant to the assault of acids to demineralize the teeth. Fluoride also speeds remineralization and disrupts acid production in the mouth.

When is fluoride the most beneficial?

It was thought that only children benefit from fluoride, but new research shows that topical fluoride from toothpastes, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments is important to help adult teeth fight decay. For children, it’s long been known that children between 6 months and 16 years need fluoride to help build their teeth.

Fluoride treatments with Dr. Miller

So, now you know that fluoride is one of your mouth’s best friends. At Dr. Miller’s practice, we apply fluoride gel twice yearly, usually for our younger patients, but also for some adults with a history of decay.

Is it time for your twice-yearly checkup? Call us at 503-640-9310 to schedule your appointment.

Posted in: Oral Health

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