The major reason for the drop in cavities throughout the world has been the use of fluoride in toothpaste.” —Athena Papas, Professor of Dental Research at Tufts University
Many people associate fluoride with dental warnings for children. While the presence of fluoride as part of an oral health routine is especially important for youngsters, it continues to be important for adults as they care for their teeth. So let’s look at what fluoride does, why it’s helpful for children and why our Placerville dentists encourage adults and young people to use it.
What Fluoride Does for Your Teeth
Fluoride in toothpaste and municipal water supplies does two major things for your oral health. First, fluoride inhibits the growth of oral bacteria. Since these organisms multiply rapidly, anything that cuts down their numbers, even for a period of time, reduces the amount of acid they produce and the gum damage they cause.
Second, fluoride encourages the remineralization of your enamel. Throughout the day, due to acidic foods, bacterial action or “wear and tear,” your tooth enamel gets worn away. Calcium and phosphate in your saliva reverse this process, repairing the outermost layers of tooth damage. In the presence of fluoride, this process speeds up. Studies have also shown that enamel repaired with the help of fluoride is even stronger than the original material!
Obviously, these two benefits can help anyone, young or old. You will never rid your mouth completely of bacteria, thus you need to constantly reduce them with regular toothbrushing. Using fluoride toothpastes improves the effectiveness of this chore. Plus, since fluoride helps your body fix its own enamel, an investment in fluoride toothpaste or rinses is a helpful way to keep your dentistry costs low. In addition, studies show that the presence of fluoride reduces the likelihood of developing osteoporosis, so just as fluoride strengthens teeth, it can also strengthen bones.
Why Fluoride is Important for Children
Children receive an additional benefit from the presence of fluoride in their water and toothpaste. While teeth are growing, if very small amounts of fluoride are present in the bloodstream, it serves to strengthen the enamel before the teeth even erupt! Thus, the teeth start their life stronger than they do without fluoride. Studies demonstrate that since the widespread introduction of fluoride into water and dental supplies, cavities in children have been significantly reduced. Adult teeth are already completely grown, however, so this initial advantage takes place only in children.
Don’t Overdo the Fluoride Treatment!
These positive attributes of fluoride do not mean, however, that you should necessarily take lots of fluoride supplements. While most of Placer county does not use municipal water fluoridation, you should receive enough fluoride if you use fluoride toothpaste and perhaps a fluoride mouthwash. If you have concerns that you or your children are not getting enough fluoride, or are receiving too much, please ask the dentists at the Placerville Dental Group for their advice. We can help ensure that your family is receiving an appropriate amount of fluoride to receive its benefits, whether young or old.