Fluoride and Tooth Decay

Tooth enamel is hard and porous. It consists of many closely-packed rods made of minerals. When you eat, a bacterial plaque forms on your teeth. The bacteria in this plaque produce acids that seep into the enamel's pores. This demineralization process can produce a weak spot in the tooth's surface. If unchecked, the enamel can decay and create a cavity.

Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by slowing the breakdown of enamel and speeding up the natural remineralization process. These microscopic views of the tooth's chewing surface shows how fluoride works.

Healthy tooth enamel rods.

Enamel rods demineralized, or broken down by acid.

Enamel rods remineralized, or rebuilt, by fluoride and the minerals in saliva.

Common sources of fluoride are fluoridated drinking water, toothpaste and mouth rinses. Inform your dentist if your drinking water is not fluoridated (usually well water). High concentration fluoride gels, mouth rinses, drops and tablets are available by prescription.

Always brush your teeth and gums after every meal. Use fluoridated products in the absence of a toothbrush. Rinse with fluoridated water after sugary drinks (including milk) and after fellatio.

Copyright 1996 by Kurt A. Butzin, DDS, Saginaw, MI, USA

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