When acid from plaque bacteria and sugars in your mouth begin to attack your enamel, minerals are lost in a process called demineralization. Luckily, these minerals (such as phosphate and calcium) are replaced by the foods we eat and the water we drink. This process is called remineralization. If the balance is tipped too far and your enamel loses more minerals than it gains, this will lead to tooth decay.
The purpose of fluoride, then, is to make teeth more resistant to the acid created from sugar and bacteria. Although trace amounts of fluoride are present in practically everything, and your toothpaste and mouthwash are likely to contain fluoride as well, your dentist may recommend dedicated fluoride treatment in certain cases. Depending on its form, this treatment can be administered at the clinic or at home.
If you have any of the following conditions, you may be a good candidate for fluoride treatment:
- Chronic dry mouth
- Gum disease
- Poor oral hygiene
- Frequent cavities
- Low intake of fluoride
- Tooth decay
Two Methods of Fluoride Intake
The two methods by which people are exposed to fluoride are by ingesting it in the form of food or water (systemic), or by applying it directly on the tooth enamel (topical).
Topical fluoride is found most commonly in toothpaste and fluoridated mouthwash. As the fluoride makes contact with tooth enamel, it encourages remineralization, strengthens the enamel and protects the teeth from decay.
System fluoride are also effective in reducing tooth decay. Since fluoride is present in saliva, it offers a systemic as well as a topical protective effect. It has been proven that fluoridating a city’s water supple is an effective method to reducing tooth decay in both adults and children. Those who live in areas where the water supply is not fluoridated (very common in the state of New Jersey), it is recommended to seek out fluoride in topical form.
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