Fluoride –you probably recognize the word from your toothpaste packaging. But what is it, and how does it protect our teeth?
Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that is found in water, soil, plants, and rocks. It’s a key ingredient in toothpastes and mouthwash as it helps strengthen our teeth enamel and protects against decay.
If you’re considering becoming a dental hygienist, you will also need to learn how to apply fluoride treatments which can help to reverse the effects of tooth decay.
Read on to discover more about the mineral that keeps our teeth gleaming.
Learn How Fluoride Protects Teeth with a Diploma in Dental Hygiene
When we eat, the bacteria in our mouth produce acids that help digest foods, specifically carbohydrates and sugars. These acids weaken the outer layer of the teeth in a process called ‘demineralization’,which can lead to cavities.
During your dental hygienist course, you will learn that fluoride strengthens the enamel and slows down demineralization. If you consume enough fluoride, it will be present in your saliva. It is then absorbed by the enamel and works with calcium and phosphate to defend your teeth, helping to prevent cavities and reverse any signs of tooth decay.
How is Fluoride Consumed and Who Needs It Most?
So we know that fluoride is good, but how do we make sure we’re getting enough of it?
In Canada, fluoride is found in public drinking water, meaning just drinking tap water can help to protect your teeth. It’s also found in nearly all toothpastes and mouthwashes, so cleaning your teeth twice a day and maintaining good oral hygiene should mean you’re getting enough.
Fluoride strengthens the enamel and prevents tooth decay
Fluoride is particularly important for children aged 6 months to 16 years as they grow their primary and permanent teeth.
Individuals prone to tooth decay will also need extra fluoride. For example, those with dry mouth conditions might need to consider taking fluoride supplements as they will not be making enough saliva to protect their teeth.
If you become a dental hygienist, you may apply fluoride treatments to clients as a gel, foam, or varnish. These have a much higher fluoride content than treatments found over the counter, so should only be recommended by a dental professional.
Can You Have Too Much Fluoride?
Have you ever noticed small white specks on your tooth enamel? This could be a symptom dental fluorisis. Dental fluorosis mainly occurs in children when their teeth are still growing and is caused by consuming too much fluoride. It can also result in discolouration of the teeth.
White specks on teeth can be a symptom of dental fluorosis
One of the most common causes of dental fluorosis in children is swallowing toothpaste. Dental hygienist’s can help reduce the risk of this by advising that they are supervised when brushing their teeth, only use a pea size amount of toothpaste, and spit out after brushing.
Another side effect of consuming too much fluoride can be skeletal fluorosis. This is similar to dental fluorosis, but affects the bones rather than the teeth and can lead to joint pain and stiffness. However, this is usually the result of prolonged exposure to excessive amounts of fluoride and is quite rare in developed countries.
Interested in pursuing a diploma in dental hygiene?
Contact Oxford College to find out more.