Dental health is pretty important, especially when you consider that it affects your overall health and one of the best things that you can do for your health is to actively take preventative measures.
Having to worry about your health is not something you need on your plate. And no one likes ending up with cavities that progress into bigger, painful problems. At Exceptional Dentistry in Palmdale, CA, Dr. James Powell and our dedicated team provide many different options so that you can be proactive with your health (instead of reactive).
So, today we want to talk about one simple thing that you can do to aid in cavity prevention: fluoride treatments.
The Weird and Interesting Discovery of Fluoride’s Dental Benefits
Back in the early 1900s, there was a dentist who moved to Colorado. And the residents of Colorado had a particular ailment: brown stained teeth.
Some people’s teeth were so brown in-fact that it looked like they had been dipped in chocolate.
This dentist, named Dr. McKay, was curious as to why this was happening in spite of the lack of interest from his colleagues. Eventually, he found another dentist who agreed to go to Colorado Springs and collaborate with him on this mysterious situation.
They made two important discoveries. The first was that children who didn’t have their adult teeth were noticeably more susceptible to getting brown teeth even with their permanent teeth. The second discovery was that the people whose teeth were brown were particularly resistant to getting cavities. But they were still perplexed as to what was causing it.
Luckily, a breakthrough came about when parents from different cities began to contact Dr. McKay about their children experiencing the same problem. And the parents observed that it didn’t start until the town had started getting its water from this new pipeline. Dr. McKay advised the town to abandon the pipeline, and the condition was resolved.
With this new bit of information, he discovered that it was the water causing this brown staining. But he still didn’t know what it was about the water that was causing it.
Soon another researcher joined the quest and he discovered that it was high levels of fluoride in the water which was causing this condition!
The Preventative Approach
About 30 years after this discovery, another dentist became interested in Dr. McKay’s research—particularly the fact that fluoride protected teeth from decay. His name was Dr. Dean.
He observed that certain levels of fluoride would not turn the teeth brown but would still protect them against cavities. Grand Rapids, Michigan was the first city to fluoridate its water and during the next 15 years, they monitored the effects. Turns out Dr. Dean had cracked the code and found the right amount of fluoride so people could still enjoy the benefits but without the brown teeth.
Today, water fluoridation currently benefits over 200 million Americans. As the numbers indicate, Dr. McKay, Dr. Dean, and the others helped to transform dentistry into a prevention-oriented profession.
Their drive and curiosity to find answers are no less than a remarkable feat of science—an achievement ranking with the other great preventive health measures of our century.
Is Water Fluoridation Enough?
Knowing that fluoridation from drinking water helps fight tooth decay might make you wonder why you need fluoride in toothpaste.
Although the nation’s oral health has improved overall during the past 50 years, tooth decay is still the most common chronic childhood disease, and five times more common than asthma. Tooth decay affects more than 80 percent of Americans by the time they begin their adult years.
But fluoridated water is not the only factor in cavity prevention. Fluoride toothpaste, fluoride varnish, better nutrition and sealants are some of the other health developments that are all fighting the good fight against tooth decay together.
How Fluoride Works
A tooth is made up of layers, with the outside layer (tooth enamel) being made of closely packed mineral crystals. Since you eat and drink every day, minerals are lost and gained repeatedly inside the crystals. The mineral lost is demineralization and regaining them is remineralization.
Plaque, the bacterial film on your teeth, creates acids that are responsible for demineralization. The acids dissolve the enamel crystals when you have sugar and carbohydrates since that’s what the bacteria feed on. Remineralization is how the enamel loss is balanced back out.
When fluoride shows up to defend your teeth it’s absorbed into the enamel through your saliva, putting back the lost calcium and phosphorous that keeps your teeth hard. When mineral loss is high you get tooth decay.
Fluoride absorbed during remineralization strengthens teeth and keeps them from dissolving during the next demineralization episode. So essentially, fluoride’s enamel-building abilities can reverse tooth decay!
The added bonus with fluoride is that it also lessens tooth sensitivity (aka you feel less pain). A prescription toothpaste with fluoride can block the tiny, microscopic holes in the enamel and protect the nerve endings, which is why Dr. Powell is happy to prescribe Fluoridex toothpaste for our patients.
Where & How You Get Fluoride
This tooth-saving mineral is actually naturally occurring in all water sources, including the ocean, just in varying amounts. That’s why municipalities add it to local water supplies where needed.
Fluoride even shows up in food like canned seafood (sardines, anchovies, shrimp, blue crab), eggs, processed meat, seedless raisins, grape juice and black tea.
But as we’ve already said, that alone is not enough. It’s a combined effort, which is why it’s often added to toothpaste and mouthwash and prescribed tablets where it will enter your saliva from the bloodstream.
Professional Strength Fluoride Treatments
Another valuable place that you can get fluoride is at the dental office! Professional gels and varnishes have a higher percentage of fluoride which is safe to get in 3-month intervals.
Our office provides in-office anti-cavity fluoride treatment for all of our patients. We typically recommend having a fluoride treatment with every hygiene visit.
When you come in for your preventative visit with the hygienist or for a fluoride treatment, we will apply it using a highly concentrated varnish, and it only takes a few minutes to apply the varnish with a brush. You just wait 30 minutes before eating or drinking, and voila, your teeth are wearing their battle armor!
So there you have it: fluoride protects and strengthens your pearly whites by fighting and even reversing tooth decay.
Fluoride is an affordable preventative measure that you can add to your cavity-fighting routine, both for yourself and your children, by using fluoride mouthwashes, prescription toothpaste and getting fluoride treatments at your dental hygiene visits.
Schedule your next preventative visit with fluoride today and get started on reducing sensitivity and your susceptibility to cavities.