Dental Fluoride – What Exactly Is It?

”Tooth with Fluoride on it"
Fluoride is your first defense against tooth decay Photo by

Fluoride, is an an-ion from the halogen group of the periodic table. It is found in abundance in nature. However, we all know about it because of the fact that it is associated with toothpastes and the domain of dental health, as well as advertised extensively throughout the media.

Fluoride is also included in the water supply, although recently, its levels have been decreased by the federal government. Nevertheless, fluoride is considered essential for dental care and it would be interesting to know how the benefits of this ion got discovered.

Discovery of Fluoride as a Dental Tonic
In the 1930s, researchers accidently found out that residents living in the areas supplied with water that was naturally rich in fluoride experienced fewer dental issues, particularly tooth cavities. So, they expanded the scope of their study and observed the effects of adding fluoride to the water supply of a certain locality.

After usage of several months of fluoride-treated water, the prevalence of tooth decay in the area got significantly decreased.  After this successful demonstration as a beneficial dental chemical, its use gradually gained worldwide acceptance. From the American Medical Association to WHO, every such healthcare entity now approves of its use.

Let’s find out some more facts and truths about this chemical vital for the well-being of the oral cavity.

Fluoride is Naturally Present in Water
As we all know, water supplies naturally contain a proportion of minerals and ions in it and fluoride is no exception. Although, the levels of fluoride are not adequate enough to provide a complete protection and therefore we need to fortify the supply with fluoride-based toothpastes.

But it should be kept in mind that fluoride is not a medication and only be used to fortify the water for strengthening the teeth in a similar manner iodine is added to salt to prevent stunted growth. Fluoride -treated water is an effective measure to protect a large number of people from tooth decay.

Fluoride-treated Water is Safe to Consume
Many people have the apprehensions in drinking fluoride-treated water. But studies have dismissed any detrimental effects of the amount of fluoride used for water treatment. Such minimal amount of this halogen ion doesn’t contain any side effects on digestive system and other physiology of the body.

Excessive Use of Fluoride Leads to Fluorosis
Excessive use of fluoride can lead to a medical condition called fluorosis. It’s a cosmetic dental condition in which chalky white patches start to appear on the enamel. Children less than 10 years are often affected by this dental issue because it mostly happens when formation of permanent teeth meets with the over exposure of fluoride. A treatment from an experienced dentist can help in getting rid of fluorosis. Also, make sure that children are not swallowing the toothpaste while brushing.

Phosphate Rocks: The Primary Source of Fluoride
With large scale use of fluoride in dental products, industries had to look for the naturally occurring options that can provide large amount of fluoride. And they found phosphate rock as the best ore to get the required amount of fluoride. These mineral rocks are also used to extract phosphoric acid used in the manufacturing of carbonated drinks.  

Let’s move our discussion to the underlying function of fluoride in oral cavity.

Fluoride Helps Developing Stronger Teeth

Tooth Enamel Diagram
Fluoride strengthens the development of new teeth by hardening their enamel. Therefore, it is deemed very essential for children who are growing teeth. Fluoride also reinforces the enamel of adult teeth as well.

Fluoride Assists the Process of Remineralization
Remineralization is an ongoing process in which minerals such as calcium and phosphorous get re-adhered to the surface of the teeth to make them harder and stronger. Fluoride assists this process by facilitating the deposits that settle on the enamel.

This fluoride action also helps during demineralization and reduces the dissolution of minerals from the enamel. These attributes of fluoride helps in protecting the oral cavity from tooth decay.

If water in your area is supplied after fluoride treatment and you are using fluoride-based toothpaste then you don’t have to worry whether you are getting enough dental protection. However, if your water supply is not adequately treated with fluorine then it is better to consult your dentist. He can guide you  with the products that can help you in getting a complete fluoride treatment.

In general, always brush with a fluoride toothpaste. It cannot hurt and will always help!

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