You’ve likely noticed when you’re shopping for dental care products that some toothpastes and mouthwashes specifically state they have fluoride, while others boast that they’re fluoride-free. Fluoride is a mineral recommended by dentists to improve the health of your teeth and gums. Keep reading for more info about fluoride so that you can better understand why it’s essential for better dental health.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in small amounts in most bodies of water and many types of food. Most city water systems also add fluoride to their drinking water to ensure residents are consistently consuming adequate amounts. The body uses fluoride to keep the teeth strong and resistant to cavities.
Why is Fluoride Important for Optimal Dental Health?
Over time, your teeth lose minerals due to a process known as demineralization. Demineralization happens when plaque and sugar combine to form acids that attack the teeth. These acids eventually wear down the enamel of the teeth and contribute to tooth decay and cavities
You need to add the lost minerals back to the teeth through a process known as remineralization to reverse the effects of demineralization. Though you can add some minerals via your diet, the mineral levels in food and water aren’t sufficient for optimal dental health.
Toothpaste and mouthwashes that contain fluoride are an effective way to put ample amounts of these lost minerals back in your teeth’s enamel. Higher amounts of fluoride can also help slow down the demineralization process and prevent bacteria from accumulating in the mouth.
Not only is fluoride capable of strengthening your teeth’s existing enamel, but it can even fortify areas where the enamel has worn away from your teeth. Evidence indicates that fluoride can reverse early tooth decay with regular usage.
When Are Fluoride-Free Dental Products Appropriate?
You may encounter individuals who advocate for the use of fluoride-free dental products. Unless you have a diagnosed fluoride allergy, you don’t need to spring for fluoride-free oral hygiene products. Research has consistently proven that fluoride is one of the most effective tools you have to fight cavities and prevent tooth decay.
When you brush your teeth using a product that doesn’t contain fluoride, it isn’t nearly as effective at keeping your teeth cavity-free as brushing with a fluoride-containing toothpaste. All toothpastes are not the same, and the act of brushing your teeth is not enough to thoroughly remove plaque and bacteria from the teeth.
Some individuals argue that fluoride is dangerous or that the average individual consumes too much fluoride. However, scientists have found no evidence to indicate that fluoride is dangerous when used appropriately in toothpaste and other dental products. In fact, research has consistently proven that fluoride is a safe, effective way to strengthen the teeth and prevent cavities.
One exception regarding fluoride usage is in children who are under two years of age. Young children usually aren’t capable of properly spitting out toothpaste when they brush their teeth, and they can accidentally ingest too much fluoride. Body weight determines how much fluoride consumption is too much; since children have lower body weights, it’s easier for them to consume too much fluoride than it is for older children and adults.
While kids under two years of age can safely consume water and food that contain fluoride, they shouldn’t swallow toothpaste or other dental products that contain fluoride in higher amounts. Excessive fluoride consumption can cause white spots, streaks, or brown discoloration on the teeth; this is a condition known as fluorosis. Use a fluoride-free toothpaste until your child is capable of not swallowing their toothpaste.
Have more questions about the best products to use for your dental health? Contact Richard W. Leong Jr., DDS, PA to schedule an appointment.