You have probably been told that fluoride plays a vital part in helping to keep your teeth strong and healthy. But have you ever looked at your toothpaste and wondered exactly what fluoride is? Below is a brief guide to fluoride.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral which occurs naturally within the earth's crust and the natural environment. Because your teeth can not repair themselves, fluoride is used to repair small cavities within your mouth. When fluoride mixes with your saliva it forms fluorapatite, which aids the remineralisation of damaged or decayed teeth and helps to fill in and fix cavities before they develop into more serious dental problems such as infections and nerve sensitivity.
What are the sources of fluoride?
A lot of communities now add additional fluoride to the water supply, while in others it occurs naturally. Fluoridated drinking water provides daily exposure to the mineral. Toothpaste contains high levels of fluoride and allows it to be applied directly onto teeth. This is why the Australian Dental Association recommends that you brush your teeth at least twice a day. If your dentist is worried that you are not receiving enough fluoride, they may apply fluoride to your teeth during your dental appointment or prescribe special gel or foam or mouthwash treatments which contain high concentrations of fluoride when compared to over-the-counter products and can be used at home. Fluoride can also be found in many foods, such as seafood, chicken, tea and grape juice.
Are there any downsides to fluoride?
While fluoride is generally good for your oral health, if you consume too much fluoride this can have a negative effect on your dental health and result in a condition known as fluorosis. Fluorosis can cause cosmetic damage such as the teeth becoming pitted or discoloured.
What are the signs of fluoride deficiency?
The primary sign of fluoride deficiency is increased levels of tooth decay leading to weak or brittle teeth. However, fluoride also plays a key part in bone health, so if you are suffering from fluoride deficiency you may also suffer from increased risk of bone fractures and breaks.
If you would like to find out more about fluoride and the effects of fluoride deficiency or if you have any concerns about your intake of fluoride, you should contact your dentist. They will be able to answer your questions and assess your dental health for signs of fluoride deficiency.