A lot has been said and written about Fluoride and its effects to teeth. A lot of the effects that are normally highlighted are almost entirely negative and rarely do you stumble upon a publication or a blog heaping praises for Fluoride. This begs the question of why dentists use Fluoride. What are some of the advantages of using Fluoride to dental health? Is Fluoride really good for your health? What are some of the effects of using Fluoride?
There are very many forms of Fluoride treatments available in dental hospitals today. The most dominant obviously comes in the form of daily toothpaste that we use every day. The other forms of treatment available include varnish, form and gel. These are professionally administered by dentists when need arises and have a relatively higher concentration than the regular over the counter prescriptions in the form of mouthwashes and toothpastes. There also are Fluoride supplements which are reserved for people and especially children who live in areas and towns with water which does not contain enough Fluoride. So, why Fluoride? Of all elements available, why Fluoride?
Importance of Fluoride to teeth
The enamel, which is the outer layer of the crown of a tooth, is made of closely packed mineral crystals. Every day, due to tear and wear, minerals are lost from inside the enamel crystals. As teeth grind against one another when chewing, some of the minerals are lost through a process referred to as demineralization. Tear and wear, is however not the chief cause of demineralization. Bacteria in the mouth also play a very vital role in demineralizing the enamel.
Demineralization begins with the bacteria in the plaque or leftover foods on your teeth. They feed on sugar and other carbohydrates in your mouth and produce acids. The acids dissolve crystals in tooth enamel. The process is slow but it eventually drains the minerals from the dentine into saliva and some swallowed.
If the process of demineralization was not countered, teeth would have been weak and dental problems would be plentifully. Dental decays is the leading problem attributed to massive demineralization. Thankfully though, the loss of enamel minerals is balanced by re-mineralization. In re-mineralization, minerals in the saliva, such as fluoride, calcium and phosphate, are deposited back onto the surface of the tooth and slowly seep back into the dentine. The natural re-mineralization is not sufficient though to warrant a healthy tooth. This is why dentists and other dental professionals look for alternatives in the form of toothpastes, gels and varnish to supplement the concentration of fluoride in the enamel.
When taken in the right proportions- through food and any other supplements, fluoride helps teeth to be stronger and immune to tooth decay. In young children especially, Fluoride enters the bloodstream and becomes part of the development of permanent teeth. Some of the ingested fluoride directly seeps into the surface of the enamel, hardening it and rendering it immune to decay.
Besides direct ingestion in form of water and supplements, people apply fluoride directly to their teeth when they use a fluoride toothpaste or rinse. Fluoride applied to the outside of the teeth helps to speed re-mineralization. The fluoride prescribed this way, normally has very high concentrations and has the ability to disrupt the production of acids by bacteria in the mouth.
As much as Fluoride is a very essential element in the development and well being of teeth, it has its own side effects which you need to be aware of. When misused, Fluoride can cause more harm than good. As we earlier on noted, Fluoride is only safe and effective when used in the right proportions and by the right age groups.
Among the most notable negative side effects associated with Fluoride are dental fluorosis and gastric complications. When used by children under the age of six years, Fluoride is likely to cause the discoloration of teeth through a process known as dental fluorosis. This has a negative impact on the aesthetics of teeth and renders them susceptible to infections as the main protective layers are scoured and scraped. When swallowed, Fluoride also affects the gastric system and causes certain complications especially in young children. This is why it is important to educate children from a young age to avoid swallowing their fluoridated toothpastes when they are brushing their teeth.
Fluoride is vital in the development of teeth but it can be harmful when misused. As a parent, you should therefore be very careful on the type of toothpaste that you shop for your family and its Fluoride content. You also need to be mindful of the concentration of Fluoride in the water that you and your family use. You can find this out through your dentist and seek for the right Fluoride supplements to stay clear of any dental complication arising from lack of fluoride.