What is Fluoride and How Does it Help Your Teeth?

A good daily oral health routine doesn’t have to be time-consuming or difficult. Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly as well as maintaining a schedule of dental cleanings form the foundation of your dental routine. But what about fluoride? Should that be part of the routine, too?

Yes, it should! Fluoride is part of the enamel on your teeth that forms a hard outer shell. It protects the pulp and dentin inside each tooth. It also redeposits important minerals to your teeth, which then helps fight tooth decay. There is also evidence that adding fluoride to your dental routine helps reverse the damage done to your teeth.

In this article, we will discuss more benefits of fluoride, why it’s so important, and ways to add it to your regular dental routine.


What Is Fluoride Exactly? 

Fluoride is on the top 20 list of the most abundant minerals on the planet. But, what is it exactly? And what does fluoride do?

Minerals are inorganic elements that are found in water and soil. Plants then absorb these minerals or they are consumed by animals. Some of the more well-known minerals needed by humans are calcium, sodium, and potassium. But there are many others, like copper, iodine, and zinc, that are only needed in trace amounts. Another one of these beneficial, naturally occuring minerals is fluoride.

Fluoride is found in foods like spinach, black tea, grapes, raisins, wines, and potatoes, among others. Once ingested, it is absorbed in the gut and stored in the bones and teeth. You can easily add these foods that contain fluoride to your diet. Plus, almost 75% of the population of the U.S. drink water that has had it added to the public water supply.

Fluoride is a vital part of keeping your teeth strong and protecting them from cavities and decay. As mentioned above, you can eat foods that contain fluoride but additional fluoride can also be added through the use of toothpaste or mouthwash containing this important mineral.

There is no Recommended Dietary Allowance for fluoride because nutritional requirements have not been established for the mineral. However, there are amounts assumed to provide adequate nutrition, aka adequate intakes (AI), for anyone age 19 or older. This amount is 4 mg a day for men and 3 mg for women. The maximum daily intake for ages 19 and older is 10 mg daily.


The Specific Benefits of Fluoride

Tooth enamel is hard and protects the inside of the tooth from damage. However, enamel is also porous, which allows plaque that accumulates on teeth to seep inside. This causes weak spots in the tooth that turn into cavities if not removed. One of the benefits of fluoride is that it protects your teeth from this destructive process.

Here are four more specific benefits of this mineral:

#1 – Reverses Demineralization on Tooth Enamel

Sugar, plaque, and bacteria on your teeth create acids that destroy tooth enamel. This is called demineralization and causes white spots and decay. Adding fluoride to your teeth puts these minerals back to help keep your teeth strong and decay-free.


#2 – Provides Antibacterial Protection

Aside from remineralizing the surface of your teeth, fluoride has also been found to provide antibacterial properties. It acts as a barrier over the tooth enamel that prevents bacteria and plaque from building up at all.


#3 – Prevents Further Tooth Decay

Fluoride builds this barrier up over time and prevents demineralization from occurring at all. Harmful acids can’t break through this wall of fluoride, which means further decay can’t even begin.


#4 – Reduces the Number of Dentist Visits & the Extent of Treatments

Using fluoride in your regular dental routines means you are keeping your teeth and gums healthier on your own. Your visits to the dentist will be kept to a minimum. Those who regularly use fluoride rarely need deep cleanings and keep cavities to a minimum (or none at all). The result is less money and time spent on extra trips to the dentist.

So, what are some ways to add this important mineral to your own oral health routine? Read on!


Adding Fluoride to Your Home Dental Routine

The two primary ways to add fluoride to your oral health regimen are through topical applications and systemic applications. 

Here are the ways to do that:

Topical applications mean applying fluoride directly to your teeth. This is done by using toothpaste and mouthwash that contain fluoride or by your dentist doing a fluoride treatment in their office.  

The American Dental Association’s guidelines for fluoride state these treatments should happen every 3, 6, or 12 months. Your dentist will determine how often based on your daily oral hygiene routine. You can also use a rinse or gel containing fluoride, especially if you are at high risk for cavities. Fluoride treatments are classified as prevention treatment, so check with your dental insurance to determine coverage.

Systemic applications refer to the ingestion of fluoride in your food or water.  According to the Mayo Clinic, more specific recommendations for daily amounts of fluoride by age are:

  • Birth to 3 years of age: 0.1 to 1.5 milligrams (mg)
  • 4 to 6 years of age: 1 to 2.5 mg
  • 7 to 10 years of age: 1.5 to 2.5 mg
  • Adolescents and adults: 1.5 to 4 mg

The majority of the population in the US drinks water with fluoride added to the public water systems. As stated earlier in this article, there are several foods that contain fluoride. Food cooked in water from most public water sources, fish with bones, and baby formula are additional sources. Cooking in Teflon-coated pans also provides fluoride.


Fluoride and You

Fluoride is a plentiful and common mineral that has been proven to protect teeth in several important ways. It keeps teeth strong and can even repair damage already done by bacteria and sugar. 

Fluoride can be applied both topically and systemically through a variety of products, foods, and even our water supplies. And since our oral health is part of our overall health, the addition of fluoride to any oral health routine will reap many rewards for a lifetime.

Contact us here at Wilmington Dental Associates with any questions you may have or to schedule an appointment for your next routine dental exam. We’ll be happy to discuss the best way for you to incorporate adequate amounts of fluoride into your own home dental care.

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