How Does Fluoride Help Teeth Stay Healthy?


Fluoride helps teeth maintain strong enamel, lowers acid production and minimizes the risk of cavities. While some question the importance of fluoride, decades of research and study by professional dental experts show that with adequate fluoride exposure, dental problems are lessened. Read on to learn about the dental health benefits of fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral found in water sources, soil and many foods worldwide.

What Is Demineralization?

Teeth constantly come into contact with sugar and carbohydrates. Throughout the day, plaque, a bacteria-ridden sticky substance, builds up on teeth as a result. When the sugars from food and drink make contact with the bacteria in plaque, the acidic reaction eats away at tooth enamel. This process is known as demineralization. Over time, teeth may develop cavities – holes – and when bacteria makes its way inside the tooth, infection results.

What Does Fluoride Do?

When fluoride increases in the mouth, bacteria in plaque loses some of its volatility. Fluoride intervenes against bacterial enzymes that feed off sugar to create acid, so the teeth are exposed to less acid overall. Fluoride also engages in remineralization, rebuilding the weaker areas of the enamel, and it assists calcium and phosphate in adhering to teeth, making them harder. It alters the structure of tooth enamel in children with developing teeth, structurally increasing the enamel’s overall resistance to acid attack. It is important to continue fostering fluoride exposure into adulthood. Adults with a constant lifetime recommended intake suffered tooth decay 31 percent less often than those with inadequate long-term fluoride exposure, according to the American Dental Association.

With less-than-adequate fluoride in a person’s diet and tooth care routine, it’s not only a cavity that may result, but tooth abscesses, infections, root canals, fillings and extractions. In addition, if the individual does not have dental insurance, costs can become a financial burden. Fluoride is a cost-effective, proven method of tooth decay prevention.

How is it administered?

A natural, healthy diet provides an adequate source of the mineral. For additional protection, fluoride is applied directly to the teeth via toothpastes and mouthwashes. Dentists may apply a gel or varnish in the office, or prescribe supplements if necessary.

Is Water Fluoridation Necessary?

Since the United States began fluoridating community water supplies in the 1940s, tooth decay rates have dropped sharply. A study was conducted over the course of 15 years in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the first U.S. community to add fluoride to its water supply. Two groups of children were tracked. The first group did not have access to fluoridated water; the second group consumed fluoridated water from birth on. Overall, the group consuming fluoridated water evidenced 50 to 63 percent less tooth decay. The American Dental Association cites this and countless other studies as confirmation that water fluoridation continually prevents dental decay in populations.

For additional information on how fluoride helps teeth and how you may benefit from dentist-administered supplements, contact Oak Hills Dentistry.