The Benefits of Fluoride
Simply put: fluoride protects and strengthens your teeth. With all the foods we eat and beverages we drink, sometimes the enamel of our teeth get a little worn away. Fluoride both prevents damage to teeth as well as strengthening the enamel that may have already been damaged. Fluoride is a natural mineral that is commonly found in rocks and soil, and it is also added to the water supply in some countries for the purpose of preventing tooth decay. In Victoria, the maximum level of fluoride in drinking water is 1 milligram per litre (mg/L), or 1 part per million (ppm), as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). As a comparison, the amount of fluoride in children’s toothpaste is 400-500 ppm and regular toothpaste is 1,000 ppm. This is important, especially since tooth decay is now the most common chronic disease of childhood (even more common than asthma).
How Fluoride Works
As nature’s very own cavity fighter, fluoride works in several ways to prevent tooth decay.
Prior to their eruption in the oral cavity, teeth can absorb fluoride from sources such as our diet and supplements and incorporate it during their formation. When this occurs, the enamel becomes stronger and the tooth that erupts will be more resistant to acid attacks from bacteria within the mouth that cause tooth decay. In this way, fluoride provides a “systemic” benefit.
After their eruption within the oral cavity, teeth are susceptible to acid attacks from bacteria that live there. When exposed to these acids, the enamel of the tooth will become weakened through the process of demineralization and if this occurs for prolonged periods of time, cavities will form. When we use fluoride toothpaste, mouthwash, or when it is applied topically by a dentist, fluoride can remineralize or rebuild our teeth by forming fluorapatite, which is stronger and more resistant to tooth decay. Fluoride can even stop tooth decay from progressing if it is caught early enough! In this way, fluoride provides a “topical” benefit.
Additionally, fluoridated water or fluoride from foods and beverages provides a topical benefit by becoming incorporated in your saliva which continuously bathes teeth with small amounts of fluoride that help to fight against tooth decay.
Aside from its topical and systemic benefit, fluoride has been shown to reduce the growth of cavity-causing bacteria within the mouth such as Streptococcus mutans, Streptococcus sanguinis, and Porphyromonas gingivalis. By lowering the pH levels within the mouth, fluoride makes the environment more acidic and unfavourable for these types of bacteria, thus inhibiting their action.
The Final Say about Fluoride
The benefits of fluoride have been well substantiated by research over the years, with one study showing that after the introduction of fluoridated water along with more dental products containing fluoride in Australia, researchers from the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health (ARCPOH) have presented study results examining the effectiveness of water fluoridation on children’s dental health. This study spanned four Australian states – Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. The study found that:
Children of 5 and 6 years of age who have lived more than half their lives in fluoridated areas have 50 per cent less tooth decay in their baby teeth, compared to children who have not lived in fluoridated areas.
Children who are twelve and thirteen years old who have lived more than half their lives in fluoridated areas have 38 per cent less tooth decay in their adult teeth, compared to children who have not lived in fluoridated areas.
Water fluoridation is not just for children. A recently published study was based on data collected from the National Survey of Adult Oral Health 2004-06. Dental examinations of 5,505 adults from around Australia found significantly less decay in adults who drink fluoridated water.
Additionally, with years of research showing that there are no adverse health conditions caused by fluoridated water, aside from mild cases of fluorosis (mostly a cosmetic problem, not shown to be harmful to teeth) which are rare, the benefits of fluoride far outweigh any concerns about its use as a powerful cavity fighter.
The content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. Dove Dental does not make any representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness, or completeness of the content.
The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional personal diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a dental or medical condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read or seen on the Site.