Fluoride — Government Conspiracy or Tooth Savior?

Fluoride treatmentsPick up a tube of toothpaste these days and virtually every one has fluoride in it. But what do you really know about this compound that originates with the element fluorine?

If you’re in your 50s or 60s, you may remember when fluoride was first making its way into municipal water supplies. This started after WWII based on research that had started around the turn of the century. That research showed a direct link between fluoride and the prevention of dental decay.

As an interesting coincidence, considering the problems Flint, Michigan is having with its water currently, the first city to add fluoride to its drinking water was Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1945. Grand Rapids was a test city and the study was supposed to last for 15 years. But it never went that far because the success rate was so high the study was deemed an overwhelming success after just 11 years. The rate of Grand Rapids children who had developed cavities had dropped by 60% over the course of those 11 years!

That test and others started a groundswell toward the current ubiquitousness of fluoride. 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.

Occasionally, you’ll hear some nut jobs spouting off about the dangers of fluoride and how it’s a government conspiracy to control our minds. Fortunately, saner minds have prevailed and the benefits of fluoride are available most everywhere.

Dr. Marshall prefers her patients to be educated on dental health. To that end, here’s some information on how fluoride protects your teeth.

What is fluoride and how does it protect the teeth?

Every day your mouth is like a gold mine in Cripple Creek, with minerals coming and going. Your tooth’s enamel is continually adding and losing minerals through what is called 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.

So how does fluoride work its magic? It is a mineral that occurs naturally in many foods and water, and it helps prevent tooth decay by making the tooth enamel more resistant to acids. Fluoride also has the Hulk-like power of reversing early cases of decay. For kids under age six, 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?

For a long time the thinking was that fluoride only benefited children’s teeth and adult teeth didn’t need it. Not true, it turns out. New research shows that topical fluoride from toothpastes, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments is also 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. Marshall

So, now you know that fluoride is one of your mouth’s best friends. At Dr. Marshall’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 610-649-0696 to schedule your appointment.

Posted in: General Dentistry

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