Most people are aware that fluoride is good for their teeth, and most people have a general idea that it makes a tooth’s enamel stronger. How exactly is this tooth-super-hero of a mineral swooping in and helping to save the day for a tooth in potential peril?
The outside of your teeth, the enamel, is crystalline, a form of hydroxyapatite, to be specific, which is made up most importantly of calcium and phosphate. Acidic foods and the acids produced by bacteria start to dissolve the crystal, causing demineralization (naughty villains, those acids!) Quickly neutralizing the acid helps allow the tooth to remineralize (to an extent … there is only so much remineralizing it can do, and avoiding the villains- too much acid for too long- is better). The presence of fluoride ions help teeth remineralize by acting as a catalyzing agent in the remineralization process. It can also become part of the tooth enamel, making a somewhat more acid-resistant enamel containing fluorohydroxyapatite and fluorapatite.
Fluoride has other tooth super-powers as well- fighting bacteria. A recent study found more evidence supporting the role of fluoride in harming the bacteria that cause tooth decay. It found that the fluoride ions have an anti-microbial effect, and that fluoride can decrease the amount of acid a bacteria is able to produce by seeming to inhibit a step in bacteria metabolism.
Another way that fluoride works to strengthen and defend teeth is strengthening enamel from within while teeth are developing by altering the structure of the enamel to be more decay-resistant, adding more fluorohydroxyapatite and fluorapatite to the enamel. This really only happens while enamel is forming, so that means at an early age, which is awesome for children. But those of who are adults can still partake of the previous two benefits!
So… now you know not only that, yes, fluoride is awesome, and why, but also how it does some of its awesome super-tooth-strengthening and bacteria-defending stuff! If you are interested learning what fluoride-fortified products and treatments we offer at Mall of Georgia Dentistry, contact our office, or stay tuned for a future post on how to take advantage of the awesomeness of fluoride!