Fluoride is a mineral that is naturally present in varying amounts in almost all foods and water supplies. Fluoride is also used in many consumer dental products, such as toothpaste and fluoride mouth rinses.
Fluoride acts in two ways; topically and systemically. Topical fluorides strengthen teeth that have already erupted and are present in the mouth. As the fluoride washes over the tooth surface, it is incorporated into the outer surface of the tooth, making it more resistant to decay. Regular applications of topical fluoride can be provided to children at their dental checkup visits, as this is one of the most effective ways or providing the benefits of topical fluoride to newly erupted teeth. Fluoride is important for adults as well.
Systemic fluorides are those that are ingested through food and water or as a prescription regimen. Systemic fluorides, if ingested regularly during tooth formation, will be deposited throughout the developing layer of enamel, creating a stronger, more decay-resistant outer layer. Systemic fluorides also protect teeth topically, as the fluoride is present in saliva, which continually bathes the teeth, promoting remineralization or repair of tooth surfaces. Additionally, fluoride becomes incorporated into the dental plaque layer and can contribute further to the remineralization process. These huge benefits are available through fluoride tablets or vitamins prescribed by the dentist.