Fluoride is important for healthy teeth and gums, and if your teeth aren’t healthy then you cannot whiten safely. But how is fluoride able to strengthen teeth, and how much fluoride is necessary?
Fluoride is a mineral that is found naturally in rocks, and it is also found in some water supplies and in some foods. Its usefulness in helping to keep teeth healthy has been known about since the 1930’s, when it was noticed that people with access to naturally fluoridated water had far fewer cavities than people who did not have access to water containing fluoride.
Fluoridated Water in the UK
The United States has been adding water to the public water for decades, but this is not something that tends to be done so much over here. Some areas do choose to fluoridate water that is naturally low in fluoride while other local authorities do not bother. A study showed the clear benefits of fluoridation on tooth decay, as it compared the levels of decay in children living in areas where the water supply was fluoridated with children who did not live an area with fluoridated water. Children with access to fluoridated water had levels of decay that were nearly 60% lower than children who did not drink fluoridated water.
In spite of this, it is still possible to make sure you have access to adequate fluoride through using fluoride toothpaste and fluoride mouthwash. If your dentist thinks you need extra fluoride then they might offer you additional treatments during check-ups. This is a cheap and effective way of helping to boost your dental health.
How Does it Protect Teeth?
Fluoride works in a couple of different ways. If you have young children then it can help to harden their adult teeth while they are still developing though encouraging the growth of a better quality of tooth enamel. It works to protect adult teeth through helping to re-harden them each time they are exposed to acids in the mouth. Tooth enamel helps to protect the tooth against cavities, and when it is weak or damaged it allows bacteria to enter the softer parts of your tooth causing decay.
Every time you eat or drink something your mouth will increase its acidity. As a result the acid in your saliva will dissolve some of the calcium and phosphorus ions from your tooth enamel which has the effect of softening it. As the pH levels in your mouth gradually become less acidic, some of these minerals are redeposited from your saliva back into the tooth enamel, helping it to become harder again. If you have fluoride ions in your saliva then this process is more successful, and your tooth enamel will be stronger and more resistant against decay.
Whenever you clean your teeth make sure you use fluoride toothpaste, and that you spit out the excess but don’t rinse your mouth with water. This will enable more of the fluoride ions to remain in your saliva for longer, providing that protective effect. If you have young children then ask your dentist for advice, as they might not suggest using fluoride toothpaste before your child is able to spit out the excess, or that you buy low-fluoride toothpaste. This is because you do not want them to swallow the excess paste as this can cause stains to form on their developing teeth. The stains caused by fluorosis are resistant to teeth whitening.