The Patriot-News recently interviewed Harrisburg dentist Dr. Michael Verber for their "Body and Mind" section, getting answers for commonly asked questions about fluoride treatments for kids.
Wrote the Patriot:
NAME: Michael C. Verber
COMPANY: Verber Family Dentistry
YEARS IN FIELD: 8
Q: What is fluoride, and what is its role in dental health?
A: Fluoride is the ionic form of fluorine, an element abundant in nature. The fluoride ion combines with other elements to form compounds like sodium fluoride, the active ingredient in most toothpastes. In dental terms, “fluoride” usually refers to the group of these compounds used to promote oral health.
Fluoride works in a number of ways to prevent tooth decay. It is essential to tooth development as it is incorporated into the crystals that form enamel, the hard outer layer of our teeth. Enamel development occurs while the teeth grow under the gums in children up to the age of 8. The fluoride in the enamel crystals makes them resistant to demineralization by the cavity process.
When certain types of bacteria in our mouth metabolize the carbohydrates we eat, they produce acid and lower the pH in the mouth. During these periods of “acid attack,” the enamel starts to break down and release minerals like calcium, phosphate and fluoride. As long as enough fluoride is available in the mouth and on the surface of the teeth, it will mitigate this process before decay occurs. It can even remineralize small areas of decay. Cycles of demineralization and remineralization continue throughout the lifetime of a healthy tooth. As such, fluoride continues to play a vital role in maintaining the teeth after they have erupted into the mouth.
In addition to building and remodeling teeth, fluoride plays offense in the battle against tooth decay. It has a direct antibacterial effect. Fluoride enters bacterial cells and inhibits the enzymes responsible for acid production.
Q: Where is fluoride found?
A: Fluoride is found naturally in the environment, in some community water supplies, and in dental products like toothpaste, mouthwash and prescription supplements.
Fluorides can be divided into two categories: systemic and topical. Systemic fluoride is ingested by the body and works from within. Topical fluoride is delivered directly to the teeth surfaces. It is more concentrated and is not meant to be ingested.
Systemic fluoride benefits us long after its key role in tooth development ends. The fluoride we ingest is present in our saliva, which continually bathes the teeth. The main source of systemic fluoride comes from the water we drink and prepare food with.
In the late 1940s, many communities began fluoridating their water supplies to bring levels to concentrations ideal for dental health. Community water fluoridation has safely and inexpensively benefited Americans regardless of socioeconomic status or access to care. Research has shown that at least a 50 percent reduction in tooth decay in children and tooth loss in adults can be attributed to fluoridation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recognized water fluoridation as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
The most common source for topical fluoride is toothpaste. Brushing at least twice a day is critical to not only remove dental plaque, but also to ensure the teeth are exposed to this necessary fluoride. Other topical sources of fluoride include rinses and gels or varnishes applied at the dental office. You should consult your dentist to find out if these are appropriate for you.
Check out the rest of the article at the Patriot's website.