Fluoride plays an important role in oral health maintenance and is single-handedly one of the best cavity fighters. Although brushing and flossing your teeth is a great way to keep up with your oral hygiene at home, skipping fluoride could be detrimental. Many people do not realize the importance of incorporating fluoride into their daily routine or what it does to help prevent cavities and tooth decay. Beneficial fluoride for teeth can be found in many foods and drinks you already consume, but you need to be aware of the proper amount and how to acquire it to ensure a healthy smile.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a natural mineral in a solid, liquid or gas form that is found on the Earth’s surface and is proven to strengthen tooth enamel. Enamel is the outer layer of a tooth that is made up of mineral crystals closely packed together. As plaque presents itself on a tooth, the bacteria in plaque creates acid by feeding off of sugars and carbohydrates in the mouth. The acid breaks down the tooth’s enamel causing demineralization. Naturally, bodies promote remineralization by depositing minerals from saliva back onto the enamel to rebuild what was lost, these minerals include calcium, fluoride, folic acid, and phosphate. Losing more minerals than you gain will result in tooth decay. By strengthening the enamel with fluoride, acid loses its ability to damage the teeth which promotes better oral health.
How does it work?
Many are unaware that you have been consuming fluoride from various sources since you were an infant. Fluoride is beneficial for adults and children whether it is present internally or externally. The benefits of fluoride internally start when you are a child, by drinking or eating fluoride it enters the bloodstream and helps with the development of permanent teeth. Before teeth even break through the gums, the enamel is strengthened making them less susceptible to tooth decay. Externally, fluoride is also found in saliva and topical treatments to help strengthen and remineralize weak teeth. Starting the use of fluoride from a young age and continuing the use will create a better foundation to prevent cavities.
Where fluoride is found
Fluoride is found in foods like eggs, milk, fish and more, but contain less than 0.1 milligrams per serving. This mineral is also found in water which has contributed greatly to decreasing tooth decay. Almost all water contains some level of fluoride, from untouched natural spring water to fluoridated city water. According to the American Dental Association, children had about three times as many cavities before water fluoridation. Drinking fluoridated water is a great way to easily include the mineral into your lifestyle, however, fluoride is most effective when used topically through toothpaste, treatments, and mouthwash. As mentioned previously, only a small amount of fluoride is found in food, and only 0.25 milligrams is present per 8 ounces of water. Fluoride toothpaste can contain one to three milligrams of fluoride. To ensure you are getting the most out of your fluoride toothpaste, you should be brushing twice a day making sure to get all areas of each tooth as well as along the gum line.
The effects of professional fluoride treatments can last much longer than fluoride used at home because they are more potent. Both children and adults can receive professional treatments which can be in the form of a gel, foam or varnish. These treatments increase the remineralization process and are usually done during dental checkups. It is important to be aware of how much fluoride you are taking in to make sure you are not exceeding the daily recommendations.
Is fluoride safe and how much do I need?
The safety of fluoride is a concern for some people, but ensuring safe consumption has been made simple. Fluoridated tap water is heavily regulated, and only small amounts are found naturally in food. At home and professional treatments have higher fluoride levels but as long as they are used as directed, they are safe. Different amounts of fluoride are needed depending on age and sometimes weight as it would not make sense for a 3-year-old child to need as much fluoride as a 30-year-old man. Generally, infants should not have more than 0.5 milligrams a day, children 4-13 years old should consume 1-2 milligrams, females 14 and older should have 3 milligrams, and males 14 and older should have 4 milligrams a day. Consult with your dentist about how much fluoride you should consume a day as these numbers can vary depending on fluoridated water consumption, risk of cavities, and what type of toothpaste you use.
Children and fluoride
Keeping an eye on the use of fluoride in children is crucial, as issues like fluorosis can occur if too much is swallowed. Fluorosis is white specks on the tooth which is caused by swallowing toothpaste during the development of teeth, and brown enamel can be caused by swallowing large amounts of fluoride. Only a tiny pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste should be used, and you should encourage children to spit as much out as they can. Children are more likely to swallow toothpaste than adults and using flavored toothpaste may entice them to swallow it. Fluoride supplements can be prescribed by dentists and are often given to children who live in areas without fluoridated water or are at a higher risk of tooth decay.
Most importantly, talk to your dentist about your specific fluoride needs to prevent tooth decay. At Fortson Dentistry, we know the benefits of fluoride and want to educate and encourage each patient to prioritize the use of fluoride for teeth to ensure their enamel is strong and healthy.
Dr. Cory Fortson, DDS began his educational journey by earning a BS in Nutritional Science from Michigan State University. He is a 2014 graduate of The University of Detroit Dental School and a third generation dentist who is proud to provide excellent dental care to the Lathrup Village community.
With his dedication to excellence and continued growth, Dr. Fortson has completed extensive continuing education courses in orthodontics (braces and Invisalign), endodontics (root canal therapy), and cosmetic dentistry. He always strives to create a comfortable atmosphere for his patients while restoring their smiles. Dr. Fortson’s goal is to take the stress out of dental visits by meeting all his patients’ dental needs while offering the most up to date painless treatment options to deliver a beautiful smile.