Why Fluoride is So Important

Tooth made of toothpaste extruded from toothpaste tube

Minerals are supplements that help the body maintain good health, giving cells the ability to release enzymes, produce hormones, properly digest food, and control your metabolism. Calcium is one of the main mineral sources that people rely on each day to maintain their bone strength. For those with teeth problems, however, calcium alone doesn’t always provide the necessary supplements needed for bone growth. Fluoride is a commonly used, and sometimes controversial mineral that’s present in everyday dental products, including toothpaste, mouthwashes, and some brands of floss. But why does the dentist recommend fluoride, and how does it help the body?

What Is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a mineral found in soil, water, and food, but is also produced synthetically for drinking water, toothpaste, and other chemical products. It’s derived from fluorine, an abundant element found in nature that, when raw, is chemically reactive and highly gaseous, causing objects like glass, metal, and even water, to burn into flames. So, why use fluoride for our teeth? Fluoride is purified before being added to products, and under strict regulations by the health organizations like the CDC and WHO, people can consume and gain the benefits of fluoride from everyday products.

What are the Benefits of Fluoride?

Fluoride is put into water and toothpaste because of how effective it is at preventing tooth decay. On a chemical level, when fluoride is present in saliva, the chemical compound fluorapatite forms, replacing the hydroxyl groups with apatite crystal lattices. These lattices are less soluble than the chemical compound hydroxyapatite, which occurs without the use of fluoride. Because its less soluble, the compound is more resistant to demineralization, even when acid is present. This makes it a great protector against cavities and helps to remineralize teeth overtime. Other benefits fluoride have to include:

  • Changing the structure of the enamel for children, making it more resistant to acid attacks

  • Reduces the ability for bacteria to produce acid

  • Reduces tooth decay by 20-40% in children and young adults

The Controversy Around Fluoride

Despite the studies that show fluoride’s effectiveness, researchers have also claimed the opposite reaction, stating that fluoride is an unnecessary by-product in water systems and that removing fluoride from toothpaste has caused a decrease in tooth cavities. However, the reasons for the study argue that the reasons for the decline in cavities could come from easier access to dental health products, and a more positive attitude towards dental health overall. Currently, under regulations, the optimal levels of 0.7 ppm, or 0.7 milligrams in every liter of water, are what will provide enough protection against tooth decay. Despite fluoride’s benefits, it also has the potential to lead to significant health problems, such as bone loss, thyroid problems, and neurological problems in large quantities.

If you find yourself still unsure about the benefits of fluoride, then one of the best places to go to for answers is your dentist. Contact Bethesda Family Dentistry, operated by Deborah Tabb and located in Bethesda, MD, to schedule an appointment and ask questions today.

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