Topical fluoride use (fluoride that is present toothpastes, mouth rinses) and fluoride treatment helps prevent tooth decay in people of all ages.
Fluoride is a natural mineral. It is present in the earth's crust, in nature and certain foods and water supplies. In the 1930s it was observed that people who grew up drinking fluoridated water had lower incidence of cavities (up to two-thirds fewer cavities) than people living in areas where water lacked fluoride. Since then it has been realized that fluoride in drinking water supply, decreases the risk of tooth decay. Currently it is recommended that drinking water should have fluoride owing to its effect on tooth decay.
How Does Fluoride Work?
Fluoride prevents cavities by functioning in two different ways
- Fluoride strengthens enamel: In children fluoride concentrates in the developing teeth and strengthens the enamel. In adults it acts on the enamel of the teeth that have erupted and hardens the enamel.
- Fluoride and demineralization and remineralization of teeth: Demineralization and remineralization of the teeth naturally occur in your mouth. The acid that is formed in the mouth after eating dissolves the calcium and phosphorous under the tooth's surface. When the saliva becomes less acidic, calcium and phosphorous are deposited (remineralization) on the teeth to keep your teeth hard. In presence of fluoride calcium and phosphorous are deposited much better than they would otherwise be. This helps to strengthen your teeth better.
[Read: Oral Health Care Basics]
How do I Know if I'm Getting Enough Fluoride?
In adults and children with healthy teeth that are low risk of decay - fluoride in drinking water and brushing regularly with a fluoride containing toothpaste is sufficient to meet the fluoride requirement.
[Read: How to Prevent Tooth Cavities]
If your drinking water is deficient in fluoride (that is contains less than 1 part per million) then your child needs fluoride supplements. Consult your dentist or pediatrician for fluoride supplements. He or she may prescribe fluoride tablets or drops. Give your child the supplement as recommended by your doctor.
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