For decades, fluoride has been held in high regard by the dental community as an important mineral that is absorbed into and strengthens the outer protective layer of a tooth, the enamel. Fluoride is the only natural mineral that has been proven to help prevent dental decay within tooth structures. In fact, since its widespread supplementation into the municipal water supplies of most cities within the U.S., dental decay has decreased dramatically. Those cities and locations with fluoridated water supplies show decreased prevalence of cavities while displaying no significant increases in any attributed harms. In nearly every U.S. community, public drinking supplies are supplemented with very small doses of sodium fluoride, as this practice is acknowledged as safe and effective in fighting cavities.
There are two types of fluoride; topical and systemic.
Topical Fluoride: Topical fluoride is commonly found in toothpastes and oral rinses. Topical fluoride is applied to the teeth for a set period of time during which it is absorbed into the outer protective layer of the enamel of the tooth. The presence of topical fluoride in the saliva interacts at several stages during the carious process to inhibit progression or enhance its reversal.
Systemic Fluoride: Systemic fluoride is consumed through the stomach via the consumption of fluoridated water, fluoride containing foods or supplements. This fluoride is absorbed through the gut into the bloodstream where it is delivered in small amounts to the developing permanent dentition.
Research has shown that there is a direct link between the fluoride content found within enamel and the caries protection afforded by its uptake. It has been found that there are two critical periods for fluoride incorporation into the enamel surface. These periods are during the final stages of crown formation and during the concluding phase of tooth development just prior to the tooth’s eruption into the mouth. The longer a tooth is exposed to fluoride during its development, the great the concentration of fluoride incorporated into it.
Should we find that your family is obtaining less than ideal levels of fluoride or if your family is completely avoiding tap water by drinking un-fluoridated bottled water, we may prescribe a toothpaste containing a higher dose of fluoride to ensure that they receive an ideal amount of fluoride during the most important stages of permanent tooth development.
Fluoride varnishes contain a concentrated dose of sodium fluoride (5% NaF) which, when placed on the teeth topically, facilitates demineralization of the enamel surface. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry agree that the application of fluoride varnish on the teeth of high risk infants and toddlers is warranted as a strong preventive tool. It is a non-invasive procedure which disrupts the progression from demineralization to cavitation and reverses incipient or early dental lesions.
While the use of fluoride has long been accepted as a highly effective preventive agent, delivery of topical fluoride to very young children has not been practical with gels or mouth rinses. Fluoride varnish finally provides an acceptable system of topical delivery to his population. It sets almost immediately on contact with saliva leaving little concern about ingestion. Its mild taste and quick application make it a nearly ideal product.
What exactly is fluoride? Fluoride is a safe compound found naturally throughout the earth’s crust; from the water we drink and air we breathe, to many kinds of natural and manufactured foods.
Why is fluoride important to teeth? Fluoride is absorbed into structures such as bones and teeth, making them stronger and more resistant to fractures and decay. A process in your body known as “demineralization” uses topical fluoride to repair or reverse damage caused by dental decay. While systemic or ingested fluorides are used to help with the proper development of the permanent teeth.
How do I get fluoride? Drinking public water will provide a certain measure of fluoride protection. But for years, health professionals have endorses the practice of supplementing our intake with certain dietary products, and topical fluorides in many toothpastes and some kinds of rinses. Certain beverages such as tea and soda may also contain fluoride. Certain kinds of dental varnishes and gels may also be applied directly to teeth to boost fluoride intake.
Current Fluoride Controversy
It is generally not safe to regularly swallow toothpastes, rinses or other products containing topical fluoride as these can cause an additive effect on the GI system as well as problems during the development of permanent teeth. In rare cases, over-exposure to high concentrations of fluoride over extended periods of time may result in a relatively harmless condition known as “fluorosis,” which can leave various levels of enamel staining. Though these teeth are actually stronger and more resistant to dental decay, it can pose an esthetic or cosmetic concern. Various other concerns have been raised in regards to the overall safety of fluoride exposure, however there theories have never been confirmed by an accredited research organization. Research conducted throughout the world, including by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), American Dental Association (ADA) and American Medical Association (AMA) all endorse the safety and efficacy for use of fluoride in recommended doses. In fact, fluoride was selected as one of the most important findings in the area of medicine over the past century due to its overall effect on the disease of dental decay.