Fluoride has an excellent reputation in dentistry and enjoys a well-established connection to reduced tooth decay with sufficient tooth exposure. This is why you see it listed on packaging for various dental products, used topically as a preventive treatment during your child’s routine visits, and often added to municipal water supply. How exactly does this stuff strengthen teeth and prevent cavities? Here’s the lowdown:
The enamel covering of the teeth is crystalline. It is a form of hydroxyapatite, mostly made up of the minerals calcium and phosphate. These molecules are held together by chemical bonds. Acids are able to weaken chemical bonds and break them. Acids come from acidic foods as well as from within your mouth when the bacteria that live in the oral cavity break down sugars and starches and excrete acids. These acids start to weaken the chemical bonds, dissolving the crystalline structure of the enamel, and causing demineralization. This happens frequently because people eat acidic foods, sugars, and starches all the time.
Quickly neutralizing the acid helps allow the tooth to remineralize- re-establish the chemical bonds- fairly easily. Now here is where fluoride comes in: fluoride is a chemical ion of the element fluorine. An ion is either positively or negatively charged, which helps elements combine with one another. The presence of fluoride ions help enamel remineralize by acting as a catalyzing agent in the remineralization process- it helps the molecules that make up your tooth enamel re-combine with each other.
Fluoride can also become part of the tooth enamel, making a somewhat more acid-resistant enamel containing fluorohydroxyapatite and fluorapatite. This is great news for children, because the process of adding more fluorohydroxyapatite and fluorapatite to the enamel seems to worked really well while teeth are developing. This makes for a tooth structure that is more decay-resistant, strengthening the enamel from within. With fluoride in the mix, the chemical bonds are a bit stronger and acid can’t weaken them quite as easily.
Additionally, fluoride ions also have been found to have an anti-microbial effect. Studies have found that fluoride seems to inhibit a step in bacteria metabolism. This means that fluoride can decrease the amount of acid that the bacteria living in your mouth are able to produce.
So that is why there is so much hype about fluoride when it comes to your teeth! If you’d like to know more about how to use fluoride to improve your dental health, and which fluoride-fortified products and treatments we offer at Mall of Georgia Dentistry, contact our office!