What is fluoride and what does it do to teeth?

If you have ever looked at the side of a tube of toothpaste and wondered what fluoride is and why you apply to the teeth, you're not alone. Many people are unsure what fluoride is and why it's important for teeth. Keep reading to learn more. 

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral. It is used in dental therapy as it combined with the molecules in the mouth to create fluorapatite, which fills any holes or small cavities in the mouth. This fills in for the natural tooth mineral hydroxyapatite which can become damaged over time either by bacteria and plaque, or the natural wearing and mechanical damage that can occur in day to day life. As human teeth are not self-repairing, you need to use fluoride in order to repair small damage and prevent small holes and cracks progressing and growing into larger issues. 

Where do you get fluoride?

Most large towns have fluoride added to the drinking water supply, and this gives people an ongoing exposure to fluoride throughout the day. Additionally, toothpaste has a slightly higher percentage of fluoride which provides fluoride directly to the surface of the teeth. There are gels and foams that can add a high concentration to the teeth, using a topical application that sits on the teeth for a period of time. Additionally, when you head into the dentist for your normal checkup and clean they will often apply a 'remineralisation' treatment which includes a high concentration of fluoride. 

Am I getting enough fluoride?

If you are getting recurring issues with cavities, it may help you to get more fluoride to help remineralise your tooth surface. This can include fluoride tablets to provide extra fluoride through swallowing, or stronger gels and foams that can help apply more fluoride directly to the tooth surface. They may also recommend special toothpaste and/or mouthwash with a higher level of fluoride that is not available over the counter. It's a good idea to be under dental care if you are making changes to your dental routine and increasing the amount of fluoride that you consume as there is a small risk of cosmetic staining known as fluorosis if there is a higher than required level of fluoride used.

Fluoride is a great way to repair your teeth's minor cracks and holes. If you would like to discuss your fluoride levels further you should meet with your dentist and get advice specific to your mouth.