Fluoride is a mineral that is in many foods and water. In the 1930s, scientists discovered that people who were raised in areas where fluoride was naturally found in the water supply had up to two-thirds fewer cavities compared to people who lived in other areas without natural fluoridated water. Fluoride has since been added to tap-water by water authorities.
Our teeth are constantly losing minerals and gaining minerals. Minerals are lost because of acids (formed from plaque bacteria and sugars) attacking our teeth’s enamel. Minerals, such as fluoride and calcium are added back from the food and water we consume.
Fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay by altering the structure of developing enamel so that it becomes more resistant to acids. This is why fluoride is very important for children, especially those younger than seven years old. Fluoride also reduces bacteria’s (plaque) capacity for producing the acids that cause cavities.
It’s not just children that need fluoride, however. Children need it to protect their permanent teeth as they are being formed and adults need it to protect their teeth from decay.
If you are among those that have a higher risk of tooth decay you may want to talk to the dentist about fluoride treatment. If the list below applies to you, you are likely at a high risk for decay:
- – Poor oral hygiene habits
- – Limited access to a dentist for regular care
- – A habit of snacking
- – A diet with a lot of sugar and carbohydrates
- – A history of cavities
- – Restoration procedures such as crowns, bridges, and braces
Fluoride is found in food and water but if additional fluoride is recommended you can find it in toothpaste and mouth washes. There are over-the-counter options as well as stronger concentrations that are available with a prescription from the dentist.