When was the last time you saw a toothpaste commercial? Was it recent or a long time ago? No matter what your answer to this question is, one sentence remains constant with all these commercials - "IT CONTAINS FLUORIDE." Ever wondered why is fluoride so popular, and what is it?
What Is Fluoride?
The element fluorine is found in the earth's crust in the form of fluoride. It is present as a mineral is rocks and soil. Apart from this fluoride is also found in the human body. Almost 99% of fluoride in the body is found in the calcified tissues of the body - the bone and teeth. Some amount of fluoride is also present in the saliva. Fluoride has a significant impact on oral health.
What Does Fluoride Do?
Our teeth undergo the process of demineralisation and remineralisation to maintain its form and shape. Demineralisation is when tooth enamel loses minerals which eventually leads to dental cavities. Remineralisation is when it gains minerals. This is where fluoride plays a vital role. It maintains the integrity of our bone and teeth and its deficiency can manifest itself in the form of weakened teeth and bone structure.
Benefits & Effects of Fluoride on Teeth
Our teeth consist of three layers. Outermost being enamel on the crown and cementum on the root of teeth. The middle layer is dentine and the innermost layer is the dental pulp.
- Fluorides make the enamel more resistant to dental decay and decrease the occurrence of dental cavities
- It inhibits the action of disease-causing bacteria.
- If dental decay has started and is at initial stages, it helps in remineralisation of dental caries. It reverses dental decay.
- It increases the strength of the tooth structure of both primary and permanent teeth. This ensures that teeth stay strong and healthy for a long time.
- It is bactericidal, meaning it helps eliminate bacteria from the oral cavity and fights of oral infections.
It is because of these reasons having an optimum amount of fluoride in our diet is necessary.
Signs and Symptoms of Fluoride Defficiency
- Dental decay
The most common manifestation of fluoride deficiency is an occurrence of dental decay. If you have too many cavities in your mouth you may be suffering from fluoride deficiency.
- Weakened enamel
Fluoride deficiency leads to weak enamel in both primary and permanent dentition. This makes enamel more susceptible to attacks by oral micro-biome which eventually leads to dental cavities.
- Brittle bones
Fluoride is present in all calcified tissues of the body including bones. Deficiency of fluoride will lead to weak bone structure. This may progress to osteoporosis. Once osteoporosis sets in, individual suffering from it are prone to fractures even on mild impact.
Treatment for Fluoride Deficiency
There are several simple ways to overcome fluoride deficiency and replenish fluoride levels of the body. Most of these can be simply done at home, however, severe deficiencies may require a professional visit.
Consume Drinking Water From Tap
Community water fluoridation has been proven safe and effective in replenishing fluoride stores of the body. A significant decrease in dental decay was seen after introducing fluoride into drinking water.
Include Foods Rich in Fluoride
These include seafood, such as crabs and oysters, potatoes, raisins. Certain beverages like tea and coffee are also good sources of naturally occurring fluoride.
Use Fluoridated Toothpaste
Most of the toothpaste available have a good percentage of fluoride added in them. It's a primary source for incorporating fluoride in everyday life. You need a toothpaste having a fluoride content of minimum 1260ppm or higher. If the prevalence of dental decay is higher in your mouth, your dentist may suggest a prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste.
Use Fluoridated Mouthwash
It helps remineralize soft spots and early carious lesions and also strengthens tooth enamel. You can get over the counter fluoride mouthwashes, but they don’t contain as much fluoride content as prescription ones.
Certain fluoride supplements are available in the market and you can get them with a prescription from your dentist.
Professional Fluoride Treatments
In children with a high rate of occurrence of dental caries, professionally applied fluoride offer significant results. It becomes necessary to prevent the progression of caries. These professionally applied fluorides can be in the form of varnish, foams or gels. Most commonly used in sodium fluoride and APF gels.
--- By Dr. Jigisha I Graduated Bachelors in Dental Surgery from the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences, India, she is a dental surgeon from the central Indian city of Nagpur.