Tooth enamel is the strongest substance in the entire human body — it's even stronger than bones. Despite enamel's hardiness, it sometimes requires the beneficial effects of fluoride to keep it in tip-top shape.
Made up of tightly packed mineral crystals, enamel protects teeth and their roots from decay. Acid attacks erupt in your mouth throughout the day in response to the things you eat and drink. These attacks strip enamel of important minerals like calcium and phosphate in a process called demineralization. Later, saliva washes over everything, normalizing the acid levels and redepositing the lost minerals in a process called remineralization. As the American Dental Association notes, fluoride is a powerful component that helps in the remineralization process.
Fluoride strengthens the mineral crystals that saliva redeposits after an acid attack, making them really difficult to destroy in the next demineralization phase. Not only is strong enamel your best defense against tooth decay, it also determines a lot about the way your teeth look and feel. Erosion exposes the dentin, which is the layer of hard tissue just beneath the enamel. Dentin contains little canals that lead straight to the center of your tooth. Once exposed, hot and cold substances, like coffee or an ice cube, can reach the root and stimulate the nerve. Ouch! Teeth also begin to lose their whiteness because dentin is yellowish.
The Effects of Fluoride
Fluoride helps teeth in two ways. Swallowed fluorides, the kind you get from drinking tap water, become part of the saliva and strengthen teeth from the outside. You can also get a topical benefit by using fluoride toothpaste like Colgate® Enamel Health™ Enamel Toothpaste, which adds fluoride and minerals to the surface of your teeth. Rinsing with a fluoridated mouthwash like Colgate® Enamel Health™ Mouthwash, Alcohol-Free will ensure you don't miss the spots in between your teeth that are susceptible to decay and can be hard to reach with a toothbrush. Sometimes, your dentist might even apply a fluoride treatment to the surface of your teeth during a regular check-up.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, community water fluoridation has been around for 70 years, so there's a lot of scientific evidence about the effects of fluoride. In proper doses, it is completely safe and effective. Although a small group of opponents still has its doubts, studies show that community water fluoridation has reduced tooth decay in children and adults by 25 percent. Tooth decay is an infectious disease, and it can have terrible implications on overall health.
Today, community water systems are checked regularly to make sure they maintain safe levels of fluoride. An 8-ounce glass of water fluoridated to 1 part per million contains 0.25 milligrams of fluoride. It's a very small amount. If you're unsure about your community water, contact your municipal water company and ask about it. Also, since fluoride products are used in such small amounts, it would be nearly impossible to receive toxic doses when using them at home.
However, parents should always supervise the amount of fluoride their children are receiving. It's important that young children, especially, do not swallow toothpaste while their teeth are developing. This could lead to fluorosis, which can cause white dots to appear on the teeth. To avoid fluorosis, just make sure your children are spitting out as much toothpaste as possible.
The enamel of your teeth is your first line of defense against tooth decay and cavities. Fluoride supports the remineralization of your enamel, preventing long-term mineral loss and tooth decay.