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Fluoride in toothpaste helps remineralize tooth enamel. (Adam Ciesielski)Fluoride is the fluorine ion added to toothpastes and dental rinses to help protect your teeth from cavities. While increasing the concentration of systemic fluoride (e.g., through fluoridating drinking water) has not been proven to reduce the incidence of tooth decay, direct contact between fluoride and teeth strengthens and helps remineralize damaged enamel. Here's how it works:
  • The calcium and phosphate compound which makes up tooth enamel is a modified form of hydroxyapatite, which is susceptible to attack by acids. Bacteria that thrive on the sugars found in the mouth multiply on dental surfaces and produce acids.

  • Mechanical brushing of teeth dislodges these bacteria and rinses them away, but doesn't do anything to address the ongoing damage to enamel from acid exposure. Fortunately saliva neutralizes these acids and teeth use compounds found in saliva to remineralize the enamel. So, as long as the rate of demineralization and the rate of remineralization remain in balance, teeth remain strong and healthy.

  • When more minerals are lost from teeth than are replaced, dental caries or cavities form. Fluoride helps by interacting with hydroxyapatite to form a stronger compound that is less-susceptible to acid attack. Also, fluoride remineralizes damaged enamel (though it can't fix a cavity once one has formed). There is some evidence fluoride may inhibit the growth of bacteria on teeth or limit their capacity for producing acid.

  • Even though you spit out toothpaste and probably rinse your mouth, enough fluoride remains on your teeth and in your saliva to confer protection for a while after brushing your teeth or using a fluoridated rinse.

How to Remove Fluoride from Drinking Water | Ways to Reduce Fluoride Exposure


September 11, 2011 at 1:39 pm
(1) G says:

The best solution is to eat a balanced diet and to avoid sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and highly processed foods. Why pretend it is okay to consume these things at all? They damage both your teeth and your health. Dr. Weston A. Price found the solution to teeth decay many years ago yet all his research has been ignored so they can promote fluoride. Fluoride is just a money making gimmick and there is very little science supporting it, despite all the claims made.

September 14, 2011 at 2:16 pm
(2) Jake says:

Apparently, Ms. Helmenstine is not familiar with the extensive research that does, in fact, prove that fluoridated water reduces the incidence of tooth decay. I could cite many such peer-reviewed studies, but here is a recent one from New York State. This 2010 study found that Medicaid patients in less fluoridated counties needed 33 percent more fillings, root canals and tooth extractions than those in counties where fluoridation was much more prevalent. For details on this study from the journal Public Health Reports, go to: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20873280

This is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has praised community water fluoridation as one of “ten great public health achievements” of the 20th century (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00056796.htm).

May 8, 2012 at 12:22 am
(3) Tanya says:

Agree with Jake above.

Please correct the error. Flouride consumption reduces teeth decay. This is a WELL KNOWN fact.

Although, I wonder what the results would be if it was in a pill form. Probably not very effective.

August 26, 2012 at 7:45 pm
(4) alexis says:

prozac, is pretty much fluoride in pill form and sort of acts a barrier, as mentioned above….but for your pineal gland! in your brain oh noooo, it hinders psychic ability so say NO to prozac and fluoride!!!!

December 2, 2012 at 4:47 pm
(5) Paul says:

While it’s true that the study that Jake mentioned seems to merit the public fluoridation of water, let’s be clear: this study does not directly prove that fluoridation prevents cavities. What’s more, it doesn’t take into consideration any other factors, and who knows what else might be playing into the occurrence of cavities among the young people of New York?

Perhaps in the poorer counties of New York there is less money to pay for municipal fluoride, and so the counties do without it. Perhaps the people of these counties also have less money to buy quality natural food that doesn’t create excess cavity-forming acids, less money to buy toothpaste, toothbrushes and floss, less money for tooth-care education, and less money for preventative maintenance visits to the dentist. Thus, higher instances of cavities, not because of fluoride, but because of low-income. This is just as plausible a theory as the fluoridation hypothesis, yet the plain fact of the matter is that this study simply does not tell us. It does tell us that the New York State Medicaid data was used. Does this not simply tell us that the more people used Medicaid, the more cavities they tended to get? Well guess what – the poorer you are, the more you will typically need Medicaid!

I often find arguments about this issue to be similar to the Indian folktale of the “Blind Men and the Elephant.” Knowing just a little fact about something does not mean you understand the whole issue. And just because the CDC says something, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true – it’s an entity that has proven to have lied before.

November 6, 2013 at 4:20 pm
(6) Chris says:

Whether water fluoridation is good for your teeth or not, why ingest it? It’s poison (toxic). Just brush your teeth with it. Running fluoride through your entire digestive system is unnecessary (and slightly toxic).

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