Fluoride 101: Getting to know the Cavity Fighter

According to the Australian Dental Association (ADA), fluoride is not an artificial compound, instead it is a naturally occurring mineral found in freshwater, saltwater, vegetables, rocks, and soil. Fluoride plays a critical role in strengthening the ability of your teeth to reduce your risk of having dental and oral health problems.  

In an article entitled “Fluoride and You” that was written by Dr. Kevin B. Sands, DDS, he mentioned that fluoride works to give protection and repair teeth by reducing the effects of dental caries caused by demineralization and restoring the enamel of teeth through remineralization. 
Demineralization happens when it destroys the enamel and makes your teeth more prone to decay. It occurs when acids develop inside your mouth that will dissolve essential minerals like calcium.  
On the other hand, remineralization happens when demineralization has already occurred. The fluoride will protect your teeth using the remineralization process wherein fluoride repairs the damaged areas of the teeth and strengthen then enamel.   


Historical Overview of Fluoride Use 

According to the research entitled “Fluoride: A Review of Use and Effects on Health” written by Domen Kanduti, Petra Sterbenk, and Barbara Artnik that was published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the pioneers in fluoride use were A.V. Black and Frederick McKay started observing the effects of fluoride in the late 19th and beginning of 20th century.  H.V. Churchill also made a chemical analysis that supports fluoride.  

After the discovery of fluoride, Dr. H. Trendley Dean, head of the Dental Hygiene Unit at the National Institute of Health (NIH) made a study where he found out that drinking water with 1 pp, of fluoride, reduces caries incidence of at least 50%, increase tooth strength, and does not have a negative impact on enamel.  

These discoveries have led people to drinking water fluoridation, using fluoridated salt and milk, and consuming diet supplements. However, in the past years, studies show that the most effective way to reduce caries is primarily through topical use and direct contact on tooth surface.  


Benefits of Fluoride 

  • Strengthen developing enamel 
  • Reverse early signs of tooth decay 
  • Makes teeth more resistant to decay 
  • Helps repair the early reversible stage of tooth decay  
  • Slows acid production of bacteria caused by plaque 
  • Prevents the growth of harmful bacteria in your mouth 


Fluoride in Toothpastes 

Dental and oral disease are major public health problems in all countries around the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dental caries is the most common disease of mankind that affects about 530 million children and 2.3 billion adolescents and adults.  

Fortunately, there is an easy and effective way to make your teeth healthy and reduce your risk of having dental and oral diseases and that is by brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Doing this is an effective way to prevent dental caries among children, adults, and seniors. Extensive clinical trials have shown that fluoride toothpaste is safe and effective in preventing caries.  

Fluoride helps prevent caries by several various actions. It slows demineralization and speed up the remineralization of tooth enamel lesions. Fluoride also interferes with glycolysis which is the process by which glucose turns into acid.  

Aside from protecting your teeth from the bacteria in plaque. It also promotes new bone formation or when your teeth are growing, especially in children. Fluoride helps you have a strong new tooth as it mixes with tooth enamel which is the hard coating on your teeth. But fluoride can still help even after your teeth are formed. 


Recommended Use of Fluoride 

WHO recommends the use of effective fluoridated toothpaste at the level of 1000 to 1500 ppm to prevent dental caries. Also, since fluoride toothpastes are very effective in reducing and eliminating caries, efforts should be made to ensure that affordable fluoride toothpastes are available in developing countries.  

For children under 6 years of age, brushing with fluoride toothpaste tubes should be supervised to minimize swallowing and only “pea” sized amount of toothpaste should be placed on the brush or chewing-stick.