If you’re struggling with your overall dental health or tooth decay, then your dentist might recommend increasing the use of fluoride. Treating your teeth with fluoride is a very important part of your overall oral care regime. Children, especially, struggle with tooth decay and currently, tooth decay is the biggest cause of hospitalisation for children aged 5-9 years old. With the UK government recently announcing that fluoride is to be added to drinking water, many people are now wondering what is fluoride and what does fluoride do?
Last week, the government announced that fluoride is likely to be added to drinking water in the future across the UK after medical officers concluded that the mineral can help reduce the risk of tooth decay, particularly in children. Public Health England found that by adding fluoride to water, this could help reduce cavities in children by up to 28%.
Naturally, fluoride is already found in drinking water in very small amounts, however not enough to provide any protection against tooth decay. PHE (Public Health England) found strong evidence that water fluoridation would drastically reduce the prevalence of tooth decay and help to improve dental health across the UK. Surprisingly, tooth decay is the biggest cause of hospitalisation for children aged from 5-9 years old in the UK, with around 23% of five-year-olds experiencing some form of damage to their teeth. But, what is fluoride and why is it so important?
A lot of our patients wonder “what is fluoride?. Fluoride is commonly used in dental care in order to strengthen the enamel, or the outer layer of your teeth. Naturally, fluoride is found in soil and food, with very small traces also found in water. Typically, it is produced synthetically for use in dental products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash. It can also be added in small amounts to public water supplies (also known as water fluoridation) where it can help to reduce the prevalence of tooth decay in local populations.
It was discovered that fluoride is effective in fighting tooth decay in the 1930s, where researchers found that children who drank fluoridated water whilst growing up had fewer cases of tooth decay than those who drank non-fluoridated water. Since then, studies have shown that when fluoride is added to the water supply, tooth decay cases decrease.
Fluoride helps promote better oral health in a few different ways. If we consume fluoride through drinking water, then the fluoride then enters the bloodstream and becomes part of developing permanent teeth, especially in children. When using dental products that contain fluoride, daily use means that over time, fluoride forms part of your saliva and helps to strengthen teeth from the outside, so that your tooth enamel gets stronger.
Fluoride works as part of the demineralisation and remineralisation process which naturally occurs in the mouth. The demineralisation process starts with the bacteria found in the plaque on your teeth. This bacteria feeds on sugar and then produces acidic saliva which then weakens tooth enamel. Fluoride helps to control and protect against damage caused by the demineralisation process and works to remineralise your tooth enamel, preventing cavities and in some cases, it can reverse early signs of tooth decay.
When you use products containing fluoride, such as toothpaste, then the fluoride ends up in your saliva. When your teeth are then coated in saliva that contains fluoride, your enamel ends up absorbing traces of fluoride. Then, the fluoride bonds with phosphate and calcium which naturally exists in your enamel to create fluorapatite, a strong material that helps to fight decay and prevent cavities.
We can all benefit from additional fluoride intake, as it offers better dental protection. However, there are people who would benefit more:
Here at Dental Solutions, we can look at your current dental health during your next checkup and provide advice on how to better protect your oral health using fluoride. To arrange a general dental checkup, contact us today!