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A common element found in nature, fluoride can prevent your teeth from getting cavities. It can even be used to repair existing tooth decay. You probably have access to fluoride in your tap water if you live in the United States, where the substance is commonly added to drinking water supplies. You can also take fluoride as a supplement. Ask your dentist or pharmacist if fluoride supplements are right for you.
Fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay. Drinking tap water with recommended levels of fluoride helps to prevent 25% of tooth decay and both adults and children. Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, making it stronger and more resistant to cavities and and reverses the early signs of tooth decay.
Fluoride prevents dental cavities. It can be dangerous, even toxic, at levels above the tolerable upper limit. Levels of more than 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight can trigger nausea, abdominal pain and vomiting.
Fluoride stabilizes bone mineral and hardens tooth enamel. In fact, 95 percent of the body’s fluoride is stored in the bones and teeth. Fluoride has been used as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of osteoarthritis, and doses of it in the range of more than 10 times the RDA have been successful in increasing bone mass in the lumbar region of the human spine.
In the United States the local water districts maintain the fluoride content of water at between 0.7 and 1.2 milligrams per liter, which is enough to prevent dental decay. But not all water sources are equal. Water from wells may not be fluoridated, and some home water-treatment systems actually remove fluoride. (Brita-type filters that fix to the faucet do not.)
Children who swallow toothpaste can overdose on fluoride, putting them at risk of dental fluorosis, a white speckling of the teeth. Toothpastes in kid-pleasing flavors -- from bubble gum to apple -- increase this danger. Supervise your kids’ brushing to make sure such tube treats remain a spur to better dental care, rather than an invitation for ingestion.
Fluoride helps keep teeth healthy in several ways. For a child under the age of eight, consuming fluoride -- in fluoridated water, beverages, food or supplements -- can make permanent teeth stronger while they’re still forming under the gums. After teeth have erupted, fluoride from those sources or from toothpaste, rinses and treatments in the dental office strengthens teeth by remineralizing enamel, the outer layer of your teeth, protecting against cavities. It can also restore enamel that has small areas of dental decay, actually reversing a cavity that’s just starting.
Today, more people than ever before spend their lives cavity-free, never feeling the dentist's drill and never knowing tooth pain. The reason? Fluoride. When it comes to dental health, fluoride -- a mineral that is found everywhere from the water you drink and swim in to the food you eat and the air you breathe -- is nature's magic potion. Cavities form when bacteria that exist naturally in your mouth break down the food you eat and produce acid that wears away tooth enamel. Fluoride fights this process in two important ways. First, it makes the tooth enamel stronger, so it's harder for the acid to eat it away. Second, if acid has already caused some damage, the fluoride can get in there and "remineralize" the enamel -- actually reversing the decay process.
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.