Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Facts on Fluoride: Don’t believe the naysayers–fluoride is your friend.

You just sat in the dental chair for an hour, and you are ready to show off that clean sparkling smile—but don’t leave yet!

Passing up on the last, and arguably, the most important step of your dental hygiene visit may be costing you more than you realize. Yes, we are talking about fluoride varnish.

Despite overwhelming evidence to its safety and efficacy, fluoride can get a bad rap, falling victim to misunderstanding, fear and conspiracy theories. An online search reveals gobs of pseudoscience supporting fluoride’s role in evil plots perpetrated by everyone from Communists to Nazis to greedy industrialists.

The fact is that fluoride use has become widely accepted in dentistry as one of the most crucial ways to combat cavities and keep teeth strong and healthy in both children and adults. The Centers for Disease Control even called community water fluoridation one of the 10-greatest public health achievements of the 20th century.

Fluoride is an element abundant in nature that works in a number of ways to prevent tooth decay. It is essential to tooth development in children, as it is incorporated into the crystals that form enamel, the hard outer layer of our teeth. The fluoride in the enamel crystals makes them resistant to demineralization by the cavity process.

When certain types of bacteria in our mouth metabolize the carbohydrates we eat, they produce acid and lower the pH in the mouth. During these periods of “acid attack,” the enamel starts to break down. As long as enough fluoride is available in the mouth and on the surface of the teeth, it will mitigate this process before decay occurs. It can even re-mineralize small areas of decay.

The minimal amounts of fluoride in publicly fluoridated water and common consumer goods help growing teeth. The fluoride in toothpaste is a form of “topical fluoride” that helps maintain erupted teeth. The most effective form of topical fluoride is, however, the fluoride varnish your dentist or hygienist can apply. Because of its higher concentration and ability to coat the teeth longer, the enamel is able to better absorb the needed mineral. Application of high-concentration fluoride varnish twice yearly has been shown to reduce the risk of cavities by 25 to 45 percent.

Keep Smiling,
Dr. Sleuth

Our Tooth Sleuth, Dr. Josh Capozzi, does most of his sleuthing at Capozzi Dental in Etters. Visit Dr. C’s Facebook and comment with questions for Dr. C to answer in his next article.

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