Has your dentist ever talked to you about fluoride? If so, and you're not sure why, here are the answers to three frequently asked questions about this important mineral that is beneficial for your teeth.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a natural element found in the earth's crust. A variety of foods and beverages also contain this beneficial mineral. Some of these foods and beverages include grape juice, white wine, black tea, cooked oatmeal, raisins, blue crab, shrimp, spinach, and baked potatoes. Many water treatment facilities throughout the country add fluoride to drinking water.
How Does Fluoride Protect the Teeth?
You might be surprised to learn that the bones in your body, as well as your teeth, contain fluoride. In fact, this mineral helps strengthen your enamel, which is the outer covering of the tooth. Tooth enamel is considered the hardest tissue in the body. Unfortunately, however, bacteria and acid cause this enamel to wear away, which increases the chances of tooth decay.
When the enamel wears away, it causes the loss of other important minerals in the tooth, which include calcium and phosphorus. Fluoride helps to reverse this wearing away of tooth enamel. When fluoride mixes with your saliva, it helps to restore calcium and phosphorus, which is a process called remineralization. When calcium and phosphorous are restored to the tooth enamel, the teeth are strengthened and the chances of cavities are greatly reduced.
Who Needs Extra Fluoride?
Since fluoride is helpful for having strong and healthy teeth, this mineral is often added to toothpaste and mouthwashes. If you are at a high risk of tooth decay, your dentist might prescribe a special kind of toothpaste that contains a higher concentration of fluoride.
You are at a higher risk for tooth decay if you use drugs or alcohol, have poor oral hygiene, suffer from dry mouth, have an eating disorder, or lack access to routine dental care. Young children that sip juice from a bottle or sippy cup are also at a higher risk for tooth decay.
Besides prescribing special toothpaste, dentists might also recommend a fluoride treatment. A fluoride treatment is a painless procedure in which the dentist applies a thin strip of fluoride to the teeth. The fluoride treatment is usually applied to the teeth with a small brush. After you have a fluoride treatment, you will not be able to eat or drink anything right afterward. This will allow the fluoride to become absorbed into the teeth.
If you have additional questions about fluoride, contact a local dentist.