Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel

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MEEKER | As many long-time Rangely residents know, I have been a dental hygienist and teacher here for almost 40 years. I am very concerned about our community’s children and their long-term health and education. So, I will continue my long tradition of sharing information the only way I know how, and try to help our community understand how fluoride works through education. The following is a very brief explanation on how this natural mineral can help keep teeth strong and healthy for a lifetime.

Fluoride does in fact strengthen enamel in two ways: systemically and topically

Systemically: This means that the fluoride ion taken into the body will attach to the developing enamel and roots making them stronger and more resistant to the acids that cause cavities. This process happens starting with the unborn baby of a pregnant mother when she drinks fluoridated water. This wonderful enamel strengthening continues as long as the infant, toddler, and children (up to the age of about 15 years old) continue to drink the optimally fluoridated water on a regular basis, and eat foods with naturally occurring fluoride. The developing root also benefits from this fluoride being deposited into its structure; and as our aging population is realizing, our gums tend to recede as we grow into our silver years exposing these roots. These root surfaces are not covered with enamel and are extremely susceptible to getting cavities, so they greatly benefit from being hardened with the fluoride during their development.

Topically: this strengthening happens after the tooth erupts into the mouth. These precious teeth are under constant attack by acid producing plaque (bacteria), acidic foods, starches (like the little shaped orange crackers our children love so much), and sugary foods, just to name a few. Fluoride helps erupted teeth by neutralizing acid and putting a protective coating on the tooth. Topical fluoride comes to us through different methods: fluoridated water at the optimal level, dental fluoride treatments at the dentist’s office, fluoridated toothpastes and rinses, and from some of the foods we eat.

This optimal level of fluoride added to the water is safe for everyone. Community water fluoridation is supported by dentists, dental hygienists, physicians and many other health professionals.1 If you have any questions, please consult a health professional for your answers.

1http://www.cofluoridefacts.org/

By JOYCE KEY, RDH, BA-ED | Special to the HT