The fluoride debate – is it good for teeth or can we all get along just fine without it? The reality is that the lack of fluoride in Calgary’s drinking water and the rise in childhood decay suggests that this dental staple, relied on to protect tooth enamel, shouldn’t be completely ignored.
Why Wouldn’t You Want To Protect Teeth?
Fluoride really can make the difference between cavity free teeth and those that have been damaged due to demineralization of dental enamel. Studies show that consistent exposure to fluoride in small amounts can dramatically improve oral health by minimizing the destructive effects of oral bacteria. Bacteria are always present in the mouth as it lives in plaque and is also found on every surface of oral tissue. When this bacteria mixes with food debris that contain simple carbohydrates the result is a release of acids that erodes enamel by eating away at the tissue. In its early stages dental decay presents as a soft, sticky spot that can actually be stopped in its tracks before it advances to become a full-blown cavity.
Can Fluoride Prevent a Cavity Forming?
Fluoride works by remineralizing weakened enamel – making it more resistant to acid attacks and erosion. In order for fluoride to do its job effectively it needs to be used in small amounts frequently to enable enamel crystals to reform. Fluoride not only helps increase the rate of formation of new enamel crystals it also impacts the size of the crystals – promoting larger crystals that have been shown to be even more resistant against the forces of oral bacteria. The key is low dose amount at regular intervals – as in using fluoridated toothpaste twice a day to brush with. It’s important to resist the urge to put a massive dollop of paste on the brush – especially if giving to a young child – as over exposure to fluoride can cause fluorosis and exhibits as white mottled patches on teeth.
Fluoride Also Helps with Tooth Sensitivity
Applying the same action of helping to strengthen enamel – fluoride can reduced tooth sensitivity. Some tooth sensitivity is caused by the thinning of enamel that occurs as we age and as a result of tooth grinding and clenching. By applying a fluoride paste to teeth that are particularly sensitive enamel can be remineralized and sensitivity reduced.