Fluoride is a mineral that is found naturally in most municipal water systems as well as many foodssuch as meat, fish, eggs and tea. Many toothpastes, rinses and professional oral treatments contain fluoride. Prescription fluoride tablets are available for children who do not get fluoride in their water.
Fluoride builds up teeth’s strength against the acids that cause cavities and tooth decay. The American Dental Association encourages fluoride treatments, stating that professional fluoride treatments are beneficial and are best utilized as part of a comprehensive preventive program at home.
Research has shown that fluoride not only reduces cavities in children and adults, but it also helps repair the early stages of tooth decay, even before the decay is visible. Fluoride is the best cavity fighter to help keep your whole family’s teeth strong — no matter how old they are.
Enamel is the outer layer of the crown of a tooth (the visible part). It is made of closely packed mineral crystals. Every day, the enamel loses and gains minerals. The loss of minerals is called demineralization. Gaining new minerals is called remineralization. These two processes balance each other.
Demineralization begins with the type of bacteria that cause plaque on your teeth. These bacteria feed on sugar in your mouth and produce acids. The acids dissolve the crystals in your teeth. Remineralization builds the enamel back up. In this process, minerals such as fluoride, calcium and phosphate are deposited inside the enamel. Too much loss of minerals without enough repair of the enamel leads to tooth decay.
Fluoride strengthens teeth by helping to speed remineralization. This strengthens the enamel. Fluoride also helps to stop bacteria from making acids.