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Dental Guide to Fluoride & Your Teeth

For most people, dental care is an important and routine part of their hygienic regimen. A bright white smile and good, healthy teeth are often seen as an attractive trait and it gives the impression of good health and pride in oneself and one’s grooming. As a result, this can have a positive impact on many areas in one’s life in terms of both personal and professional relationships. Fluoride pays an important role in maintaining a person’s teeth and keeping them strong. Although most people are aware that fluoride is a positive dental aid, they may not recognize exactly what it is or how it actually helps protect their teeth and keep them healthy.

All soil, water, and some types of food contain the naturally occurring element that is known as fluoride. It is a mineral that is used to fight against the decaying of teeth. People have access to fluoride in several different ways. The most common way that people use fluoride is in their toothpaste; however, there are other dental products that contain the mineral in varying degrees, such as mouth rinses and supplements. People can also receive fluoride when they drink water that comes from the tap, as it is added to the municipal water supply in a process that is called fluoridation. The practice of adding fluoride to water began in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1945. This was done after studies conducted in the 1930s revealed that people who were exposed to higher levels of the mineral in their drinking water had less tooth decay than people who were not.

To understand how fluoride fights the decaying of teeth, one must first understand how tooth decay happens. When a person eats, bacteria that resides in the mouth feeds off of the sugars and carbohydrates in the food and creates acids. This acid then attacks the mineral crystals that make up the enamel of a person’s teeth. When the acid attacks the mineral crystals it dissolves it away in what is called demineralization. Demineralization is harmful to teeth and must be balanced out by remineralization, or the replacement of lost minerals, to help rebuild the enamel. When people use products that contain fluoride, they are depositing it into the enamel and replacing the minerals that are lost to the acids created by bacteria. If they do not do this then tooth decay will begin. Tooth decay can eventually result in severe tooth damage and eventually the loss of a tooth. According to the CDC, fluoridation can reduce a person’s lifetime level of tooth decay by as much as 25 percent.

Fluoride can be applied using a systemic or topical method. Each of these affects the way in which it helps strengthen a person’s teeth. Toothpaste and mouth rinses are considered topical in that they are applied directly to the teeth. Because topical fluoride is applied directly to the teeth it helps strengthen them from the outside. When fluoride is swallowed it is systemic and benefits teeth from the inside out. Examples of systemic fluoride include supplements, such as fluoride tablets, as well as certain food items that contain fluoride. Fluoridated water is both systemic and topical as it comes into contact with teeth when it enters the mouth and it enters the bloodstream when swallowed. To achieve the best results when trying to strengthen the teeth, people may want to combine products and methods of getting fluoride.

An attractive smile has always been an important part of making a positive first impression. That is, however, only one of the many reasons why it is so important for people to maintain healthy teeth. Understanding fluoride and how it works to protect the teeth is crucial when it comes to keeping teeth strong for mastication and one’s general health. It is an important element that is readily available in most dental care products and in the water system.

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