Fluoride is a naturally occurring chemical that is effective in preventing tooth decay. Since the 1930’s, it has been used to reduce tooth decay. It is often added to tap water. It is contained in some toothpastes, or can be supplied by prescription from a dentist or physician. Recently, it has become noted that fluoride is responsible for a great decrease in the number of cavities, despite a dramatic increase in the amount of sugar consumed.
As fluoride strengthens a tooth’s enamel making it more decay resistant, it also helps to decrease the formation of acids caused by the interaction of sugar and plaque in the mouth. When only the enamel has been affected, fluoride can help repair the early stages of decay. This process is called remineralization. Fluoride can either be applied directly to the teeth, or it can be taken by mouth.
Fluoride is usually introduced to the general public through tap water in a concentration designed to be effective for the greatest number of people. That concentration is one part fluoride to a million parts of water.
There are several other forms in which fluoride is available. However, check with your local water authority first before introducing fluoride to your family. They can advise you on the concentration of fluoride in the water supply in your area. Do not administer fluoride to children without consulting with your dentist or doctor and being given explicit instructions.
Fluoride is in many of our toothpastes and this has also been an important factor in reducing dental cavities. Fluoride toothpastes are highly recommended by many in the dental profession. Always rinse your mouth thoroughly after brushing and you do not want to swallow the toothpaste.
There are several fluoride toothpastes available that are low-dosage and should be used for children, if recommended by your dentist, until they can rinse out their mouths properly. When teaching very young children to brush their teeth, just using a portion of toothpaste the size of a pea is sufficient.
Fluoride rinses are available but not recommended for children under the age of seven and must be rinsed thoroughly and not swallowed. Fluoride can be applied directly to the teeth by painting it on as a varnish or a gel, but this should be done by your dentist. They are fairly easy to apply and effective and they also dry pretty quickly.
Fluoride is toxic in excessive doses, just like most other substances. That’s the reason it’s very important to thoroughly rinse your mouth after brushing and rinsing your mouth with mouthwashes. Fluoride is considered effective and safe when it is administered in the proper manner and concentration.
Fluorosis (or fluoridosis) is a brown and white mottling of the teeth which is cause by excessive fluoride while teeth are developing. This condition is mainly seen in areas where there is too much fluoride in the natural drinking water.