What is Fluoride and How Does it Strengthen Teeth?

What is Fluoride and How Does it Strengthen Teeth? 

You may already know that fluoride is an important element in dental health and growth for children, but did you know it also has a number of benefits for adults? Adults do benefit from fluoride, but they struggle with acceptance of getting professional in-office treatment during their routine care because it's not a covered insurance benefit.

In fact, adults are frequently exposed to the fluoride teeth needed from daily routines like drinking tap water and brushing your teeth. All of these things can help to strengthen your teeth and prevent decay. 

At this point, you might be wondering what fluoride is and how it helps strengthen your teeth and that’s exactly what we’ll cover in this article. 

Here’s a look at the topics that will be discussed: 

  • What is fluoride? 
  • How does fluoride strengthen your teeth?
  • What are the benefits of fluoride?
  • Do both adults and children need fluoride? 
  • When is fluoride intake important? 
  • Where to get fluoride?
  • Is fluoride safe?
  • What are the risks of fluoride? 
  • Other ways to strengthen your teeth in addition to fluoride

What is fluoride? 

Fluoride is a material found naturally in the water you drink and the foods you eat. It is also produced synthetically to be used in things like drinking water, toothpaste, and mouthwashes. 

It’s an important mineral that can help strengthen your teeth and protect you against decay or disease. 

There are a few examples of what fluoride treatment can help to: 

  • Strengthen tooth enamel 
  • Reduce tooth sensitivity
  • Encourage healthy tooth formation 

By ensuring you have the proper fluoride intake and treatments, you can proactively fight tooth decay and strengthen your enamel. 

How does fluoride strengthen your teeth?

Fluoride can help prevent cavities and tooth decay through protection from demineralization and helps to remineralize your teeth. Simply put, fluoride can add an extra layer of defense to your teeth and help prevent mineral loss that can lead to permanent damage. 

diagram of how flouride works in the mouth
Everything you eat and drink affects your mouth, and it can cause bacteria and acid build-up that can remove important minerals from the enamel of your teeth. Fluorine helps to reduce this mineral loss and keep your teeth healthy and strong. Source: https://www.toorongadentistry.com.au/study-shows-benefits-of-fluoride-to-children/

To help you better understand how fluoride strengthens your teeth, you need to have a basic knowledge of what demineralization and remineralization are. 

Fluoride protects your teeth from demineralization

Demineralization happens when the minerals on your teeth start to wear away. As this happens, the acids produced in your mouth from bacteria can cause the enamel of your teeth to erode. 

This process can happen for a variety of reasons, but some of the most common causes include: 

  • Drinking sugary or acidic beverages
  • Poor oral hygiene 
  • An unbalanced diet
  • Not enough saliva

Fluoride can help prevent the process of demineralization and restore the proper minerals to your teeth to avoid decay. 

Fluoride encourages enamel remineralization 

Remineralization is a natural process that helps repair your enamel. To do this, your body uses minerals found in your saliva and bonds them to the weakened areas of your enamel. Some medications affect saliva flow, causing dry mouth. This increases the risk of developing cavities.  A prescription-strength fluoride may be recommended for additional protection.

This process helps strengthen your teeth and protect them from future decay. The foods you eat can help initiate the remineralization of your teeth, but fluoride is often needed to help strengthen the enamel. 

Fluoride does this by strengthening your teeth and making them more resistant to mineral loss in the first place. 

What are the benefits of fluoride?

Adults can definitely benefit from fluoride. Having the proper intake of fluoride can provide you with a number of benefits, including cavity prevention and strengthening the enamel of your teeth. Fluoride will ensure that your teeth are remineralized and protected against the daily bacteria and acid that builds up in your mouth.

illustration of the benefits of fluoride
Fluoride will help to remineralize your tooth enamel, reduce bacteria, and help prevent future tooth decay. It’s important that you have the proper fluoride intake and are using toothpaste and mouthwash that provide your teeth with the exposure needed to stay healthy. https://www.verywellhealth.com/facts-about-fluoride-toothpaste-4587999

These are a few of the benefits of using fluoride for your teeth

  • Remineralize weakened tooth enamel
  • Slow down the loss of minerals from the tooth enamel 
  • Prevent cavities by strengthening tooth enamel
  • Reverse early signs of tooth decay
  • Prevent the growth of harmful oral bacteria

The benefits of fluoride treatments are plentiful. You’ll give your teeth the strength they need to continue thriving and avoid potential decay. 

Do both adults and children need fluoride? 

When you think of fluoride, you may initially think that it’s something that only children and teenagers need. But in reality, it’s an essential mineral that everyone needs to help protect their teeth and prevent cavities and decay. 

Let’s break down the importance of fluoride for both kids and adults to help you better understand the benefits for both. 

Fluoride treatment for kids

For children between the ages of six months and 16 years, fluoride exposure is vital, and it helps prevent tooth decay and strengthens the tooth enamel from an early age. 

This exposure can happen in multiple ways, such as fluoride treatments during a regular dental visit. Many kids may get enough fluorine from their diet by drinking water with fluoride and regularly brushing their teeth with the right kind of toothpaste.

Tooth decay is more common among children than you would expect. That’s why it’s vital to stay ahead of your child's fluoride needs.  

tooth decay statistics and diagram showing how many children are impacted by tooth decay
Tooth decay affects over 40% of children, but it’s something that can be avoided with proper daily cleanings and fluoride prevention treatment. Stay ahead of your child’s oral health and start the conversation about how fluoride can benefit them. https://mycanyoncrestdental.com/preventive-dental-care/fluoride-treatment/

Young children that are just starting to grow their baby teeth may have a fluoride varnish brushed on their teeth to help protect them. This can be done by a dentist or is sometimes handled by a primary care provider, and it provides them with a line of protection against bacteria and decay. 

Regular visits to your dental provider every six months will help evaluate and determine whether your child requires fluoride treatment to supplement the natural mineral regeneration. 

Fluoride treatment for adults 

It’s not as common for adults to have regular fluoride treatment applied to their teeth during routine dental visits. But adults still can and should get fluoride treatments to help protect their teeth.

While the best line of defense from tooth decay for adults is to regularly practice good oral hygiene and use toothpaste and mouthwash that has fluoride in it, an occasional fluoride treatment can add another layer of protection. 

Fluoride treatments are a great way to strengthen your tooth’s enamel and protect your teeth, no matter what age you are. The best way to avoid having a cavity filled or prevent tooth decay is to be proactive with your oral health, and fluoride treatments can help you do just that. 

When is fluoride intake important? 

While it’s always important to have the proper intake of fluoride, there are some instances where it may be a necessity. 

As mentioned above, fluoride treatment is important for children as their teeth begin to come and their permanent teeth begin to replace their baby teeth — but there are a few other critical scenarios when fluoride intake is important. 

The following conditions are a few examples when additional fluoride intake and treatment are beneficial: 

  • Dry mouth conditions that make it harder for food particles to be washed away and acids to be neutralized 
  • Gum disease that may expose more of a tooth due to gum recession 
  • A history of frequent cavities indicating the enamel may need extra strengthening 
  • Crowns, bridges, or braces that may lead to decay where the tooth replacement or braces brackets sit

If you’re unsure whether you should increase your fluoride intake or need additional treatments, speak with your dentist, and they can help guide you on what path is best for your needs. 

Where to get fluoride? 

There are a few different ways that you can increase your fluoride intake that are beneficial. From drinking more water, getting a prescription, and adding fluoride-rich foods to your diet to professional treatment plans — improving fluoride intake doesn’t have to be complicated. 

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can get fluoride in your daily life. 

Natural ways to increase fluoride intake

Since fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral, there are several ways you can increase your intake. This can be done by adding more food and water with fluoride in them. 

sources of fluoride illustration
Fluoride is a mineral that is already prevalent in many of the foods you’re already consuming every day. From fish and eggs to tea leaves and the water that comes out of your tap — you’re likely already getting a large portion of the mineral you need for healthy teeth. https://www.thebelldentalgroup.com/blog/have

One of the best ways to increase your fluoride intake is to drink more tap water. 

In most areas, tap water is fluoridated, meaning it will provide you with the minerals you need to start the remineralization process.

Drinking tap water is also important for children. That is because when fluoridated water is consumed, it can help make teeth stronger as they grow and improve their quality before they become exposed outside of the gums. 

Most cities and towns have fluoridated water, but if yours does not, your dental provider may recommend additional treatment options to ensure you’re getting the proper amount of fluoride to protect your teeth.

There are also a number of different foods you can add to your diet that will help increase your fluoride intake.

If you’re looking to add some new fluoride positive foods to your diet, consider things like: 

  • Spinach
  • Grapes
  • Fish 
  • Raisins
  • Meat 
  • Black tea
  • Eggs 
  • Potatoes 

By drinking more tap water and adding key foods to your diet, you can easily improve your natural fluoride intake to protect and strengthen your teeth. 

Use oral care products with fluoride 

In addition to naturally supplementing your fluoride intake, there are a few oral care products you can use as part of your daily routine to protect your teeth. 

ways to apply fluoride directly on teeth
On top of the foods and water you’re already consuming, the oral care products you use on a daily basis are also helping your teeth fight cavities and decay. Choosing toothpaste and mouthwash that contain fluoride will keep your teeth protected daily. https://www.thebelldentalgroup.com/blog/have

When brushing your teeth, which you should be doing at least twice a day, you should be using a toothpaste that contains fluoride. 

Mouthwash is another oral care product that can help increase the amount of fluoride you’re using. Using mouthwash will help to rinse away any bacteria or lingering residue on your teeth and add a protective layer that can fight tooth decay. 

So when you go to the store to refill your toothpaste and mouthwash, make sure to look for products that contain fluoride to get the most out of each cleaning. 

One last oral care product that can help increase fluoride intake are supplements. These supplements generally require a prescription and are often given to children who need additional support. 

Fluoride treatments performed by your dentist

Without the proper fluoride treatments, cavities can become a chronic condition for children and adults. To help prevent this from happening, adults and children are receiving it as part of their routine dental visits.

fluoride treatment illustration
When fluoride treatment is required, it is a straightforward process. In many cases, your dentist will simply paint a gel or varnish onto your teeth, and that will provide the enamel with the protection it needs to fight decay. https://www.garymccorddds.com/procedures/fluoride-treatments

A fluoride varnish is applied by a dentist to help prevent tooth decay foradults and children. This varnish is painted on to the teeth and hardens once exposed to saliva, and it is a safe option to help prevent and slow down the spread of tooth decay. 

Fluoride treatments may not be necessary for all adults. Most adults can get enough fluoride from their diet, water, and other natural sources, but some people may still benefit from additional treatments. 

For adults, treatments can be done a few different ways and maybe completed with fluoride in the form of a gel, foam, or varnish. Once the treatment has been placed, you’ll have to avoid eating or drinking for about 30 minutes after the appointment to allow the fluoride to be absorbed.

If you are at a higher risk for tooth decay, you may want to speak with your dentist about how fluoride treatments can benefit you. Depending on the health of your teeth, your dentist may recommend regular fluoride treatments or suggest additional ways to increase your fluoride intake. 

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Is fluoride safe? 

Yes, fluoride is a safe and effective way to prevent tooth decay and protect your teeth. 

You should have no concerns about drinking tap water, eating fluoride-rich foods, and having treatments completed at the request of your dentist. In these scenarios, the fluoride levels you are taking in will not harm you.

What are the risks of fluoride? 

While fluoride is a safe and effective way to protect your teeth from decay, there is such a thing as too much exposure. 

The normal intake of fluoride you receive from your drinking water and toothpaste won’t cause any damage. It’s when you’re having excess exposure to the mineral that can pose a risk. 

Most people won’t have any adverse reactions to fluoride, but the following are a few of the risks that could come with excessive exposure to fluoride

Dental fluorosis

Dental fluorosis can occur when a child has had too much exposure to fluoride during the tooth developmental stages. It can result in tiny white streaks or spots appearing in the tooth enamel. 

While dental fluorosis will not impact the health of the teeth, it can result in some minor discoloration of the tooth.

Skeletal fluorosis

Skeletal fluorosis is a bone disease related to excess exposure to fluoride. This can be a painful disease and cause damage to your bones and joints, and it can weaken bones and cause them to be more susceptible to breaks or thicken bones and result in impaire joint mobility. 

Fluoride poisoning

Extremely high levels of fluoride exposure can result in fluoride poisoning. This can result in abdominal pain, excessive saliva, nausea and vomiting, seizures and muscle spasms. 

It is important to note that this is uncommon and the level of exposure has to be fairly drastic to result in fluoride poisoning. 

Additional conditions

Some other conditions that have been linked to excessive fluoride exposure include things like: 

  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Skin conditions
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Neurological problems 

While some risks and side effects could come from too much fluoride exposure, it is one of the best defense mechanisms to protect your teeth from decay when used correctly. Contact your dental provider for guidance if you’re unsure whether you have too much or too little exposure. 

Other ways to strengthen your teeth in addition to fluoride 

Fluoride is important for preventing decay and strengthening your teeth, but it’s not the only thing you can do to protect your teeth. There are a number of other things you can do to strengthen your teeth — let’s take a look at a few key areas. 

Proper oral hygiene

Following a proper oral hygiene routine is another vital step in protecting your teeth from decay. This will allow you to remove any plaque or bacteria build-up that has occurred throughout the day. 

For the best results, your daily oral hygiene routine should include the following steps: 

  1. Flossing your teeth at least once a day
  2. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day
  3. Using mouthwash daily 

Proper oral hygiene is one of the most important things you can do to protect your teeth and keep your smile white and bright. 

Decrease your sugar and dairy intake 

Sugar and dairy are two things you’ll want to consider decreasing or cutting out of your diet altogether. 

Both sugar and dairy can cause the bacteria in your mouth to start to break down your tooth's enamel. By decreasing your intake of both culprits, you can limit your exposure and preserve the quality of your enamel. 

Other foods for decreasing consumption or avoiding include things like: 

  • Fruit and fruit juices 
  • Grains
  • Starchy foods

The foods you eat every day can have a significant impact on the health of your teeth. By making intelligent choices each day when preparing your meals, you can set yourself up for a healthier mouth. 

Visit your dentist regularly

Last but not least, visiting your dentist on a regular basis is essential. 

You should be seeing your general dentist once every six months for an exam and cleaning. 

This visit allows your dentist to thoroughly examine any potential concerns before they become a significant problem. They will also do a thorough cleaning that will leave your mouth feeling fresh and clean. 

These visits are the perfect time to ask your doctor whether additional fluoride treatments may be beneficial for your oral health or not. Your dentist is the best resource to help you understand your needs and put a treatment plan in place if needed. 

Strengthen and protect your teeth with fluoride 

Fluoride is a safe and effective mineral that helps to protect your teeth from tooth decay. 

The best part is, you don’t have to go out of your way to find it. It can be found in many of the foods you’re already eating and the water coming from your kitchen sink. These avenues allow you to get the fluoride you need to daily strengthen and protect your teeth.

If you’re unsure whether you’re getting enough fluoride in your daily routine, speak with your dentist about ways you may be able to supplement the mineral for the most protection. 

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