Cavities used to be very common, but over the past few decades, tooth decay has been reduced dramatically thanks to fluoride. Studies have shown that fluoride reduces cavities in both children and adults and helps repair the early stages of tooth decay even before the decay is visible. Fluoride is a nutrient, which is safe and effective when used appropriately.
Fluoride is a mineral that naturally occurs in all water sources, even the oceans. The fluoride ion comes from the element fluorine. Fluorine, which is the 17th most abundant element in the earth’s crust, is never encountered in its free state in nature. It exists only in combination with other elements as a fluoride compound.
Fluoride is effective in preventing and reversing the early signs of tooth decay. Research has shown there are several ways in which fluoride achieves its decay-preventive effects. It makes the tooth structure stronger, so teeth are more resistant to acid attacks. Fluoride also acts to repair, or re-mineralize, areas that acid attacks have begun. The effect of fluoride is important because it reverses the early decay process as well as creating a tooth surface that is more resistant to decay
Fluoride is obtained in topical and systemic forms. Topical fluorides strengthen teeth making them more decay-resistant. Topical fluorides include toothpastes, mouth rinses, and professionally applied fluoride therapies.
Systemic fluorides are ingested in the body and become important in forming tooth structure. Systemic fluorides can also give topical protection because fluoride is present in saliva, which continually coats the teeth. Systemic fluorides include water fluoridation or dietary fluoride supplements in the form of tablets, drops or lozenges.