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The WGM Guide to Flouride
Advertisers tout the benefits of fluoride in their toothpastes, mouthwashes, and dental treatments. Drinking water in most cities contains added fluoride. And, many foods contain natural fluoride. But why all the fuss about fluoride? What does it do for your body or for your teeth? Your White, Greer, & Maggard orthodontists are here to give you the straight scoop about fluoride.
How Does Fluoride Improve Your Oral Health?
Fluoride is a chemical ion of the element fluorine found naturally in soil, water and foods. Tooth decay is caused when acid attacks the outer surface of your tooth. Bacteria that live on the surface of the teeth, called plaque, produce this acid. This production is intensified by sugary foods and drinks which form a plaque that can keep the acid in contact with the tooth’s surface for up to two hours before it is neutralized by saliva. When this is happening, the enamel of your tooth, composed of calcium and phosphate minerals, is dissolved in a process called demineralization. When the saliva neutralizes the acid, it can return some of the compounds back to your teeth, called remineralization. When the demineralization outweighs the remineralization on your teeth, you have tooth decay. Fluoride can help stop tooth decay in four ways:
- Having low levels of fluoride in the plaque and saliva helps the remineralization of your teeth, improving strength of tooth enamel. Fluoride also makes sure that the enamel crystals are improved in quality and more resistant to acid attacks. This means your enamel damaged from early decay can improve or “heal” itself.
- Children up to 7 years old who get enough fluoride have tooth enamel that is more resistant to acid attacks.
- Fluoride combines with your plaque bacteria to prevent acid-building enzymes from functioning.
- Another positive effect of fluoride affects the grooves on the biting surfaces of the teeth. In children who drink fluoridated water growing up, these grooves are more shallow, making it easier for plaque to wash away.
These are positive, well-researched oral health benefits, but too much of a good thing is still true in the case of fluoride. Dental fluorosis is a cosmetic condition that can develop in children 8 years old and younger who consume too much fluoride, from any source, over long periods of time when teeth are developing under the gums. When the teeth emerge, they may have white flecks or spots, or even pitted surfaces due to this overexposure of fluoride.
How Do You Get Fluoride?
Fluoride is found naturally in soil, water, foods, and several minerals. But the amount found naturally is not enough. Thankfully, a majority of cities in the U.S. currently monitor the fluoride levels in city drinking water and add or subtract fluoride to maintain the optimal amount of fluoride as a public health effort. This optimal amount will give you the fluoride you need for good oral health without the danger of overexposure. Although you may be getting fluoride from your drinking water, the orthodontists at WGM still recommend the use of products containing fluoride. Toothpaste and mouthwash brands with added fluoride can help prevent the decay-causing acid that attacks your teeth, and keep your teeth strong.
Oral Health Takes More Than Just Fluoride
Research suggests that good oral health mirrors your body’s overall health. And, while fluoride can help prevent tooth decay, maintaining good oral health requires more than drinking water. You need a consistent oral hygiene routine which includes:
- Brush for two to three minutes, at least twice a day, with fluoridated toothpaste.
- Floss daily to remove plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach.
- Eat a healthy diet to provide the nutrients necessary (vitamins A and C, in particular) to prevent gum disease.
- Avoid cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, which may contribute to gum disease and oral cancer.
- Exercise preventative care and schedule regular dental checkups – the surest way to detect early signs of periodontal disease.
If you have questions about using fluoride or if you’re ready to make your next orthodontic appointment, contact one of our offices located throughout Kentucky. We’re happy to schedule an appointment and examine your individual case to make sure you have the best oral health possible.