You know your dentist advises fluoride treatments when you get your teeth cleaned and that your toothpaste has a little bit of fluoride to help prevent cavities. But, do you actually know why fluoride helps your teeth? Here's why fluoride is such an amazing substance for keeping your teeth as healthful as possible.
It Strengthens Your Enamel
Your enamel is the strongest substance in the human body, but it's still at risk of dissolving in an acidic environment. Your mouth is full of bacteria that is constantly digesting sugar and secreting acid, lowering the pH balance in your mouth.
Fluoride reacts with the calcium in your teeth to form an even stronger form of enamel that is more resistant to acid. Your mouth needs to be much more acidic in order to cause decay in teeth that have been strengthened by fluoride. This is especially true in children who still have developing or growing teeth because fluoride is most effective during the growth process.
It Reduces Bacterial Acid Formation
The fluoride in your toothpaste is actually an ionic compound: calcium fluoride. When it's in your mouth, it can ionize, separating the fluoride and calcium ions. When you have a low mouth pH, some of the fluoride ions bind with hydrogen ions to form a shaky covalent bond.
This combination of hydrogen and fluoride can pass through the cell walls of bacteria in your mouth. After the molecular compound passes through, it ionizes again and slows or completely disrupts the enzymatic processes of the cell. In other words, the bacteria cannot fully metabolize sugar and therefore cannot create as much acid.
It Remineralizes Compromised Enamel
The final and most effective benefit of fluoride is that it can really help prevent cavity development by making it easier for calcium and phosphorus ions to bind to partially dissolved portions of enamel. Fluoride essentially makes a coating over the tiny places of decay. The ions are more attracted to the fluoride, so they bind to the area more quickly and effectively.
As a result, the remineralized areas are actually more cavity resistant than the original unharmed enamel was to begin with.
So, the next time your dentist suggests a fluoride tray as part of your cleaning, don't wince. This substance can really give your teeth a needed boost to fight and prevent cavities. Also, don't forget that the most effective use of fluoride is with daily brushing.