Teeth are the jewels of the mouth. A mouth full of jewels always shines brighter than a mouth with few of its jewels missing.
The number one reason for an individual to lose teeth is caries. To know why and how caries develop in your mouth, we need to understand the tooth structure.
What is tooth enamel?
A tooth is made up of an outer strong layer called enamel and inner softer layer called dentin. These two layers cover and protect the inner blood vessels and nerves which are collectively known as pulp.
Enamel is made up of calcium, phosphate, water and other organic and inorganic materials. It is the first formed tissue of the tooth and is highly under the threat of bacteria.
How bacteria cause cavities on teeth?
In the presence of food and carbohydrates in the oral cavity, bacteria attack the enamel and break down its minerals like calcium to form caries or cavities on the tooth surface. When this caries is neglected, the invading bacteria reach pulp causing pain.
To prevent itself from this attack, our mouth itself has many defense mechanisms.
On the front line of defense is saliva, which contains calcium, phosphate and various proteins which wash and fight these bacteria off.
When this mechanism fails, the enamel itself is strong enough to resist the bacterial attack. Sometimes extra force is needed to defend the tooth structure from invading bacteria.
There comes the role of fluoride.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is one of the most common elements present in the earth’s crust and water. It is present in an ion-like form which can mix with other elements and form new compounds.
When fluoride comes in contact with tooth enamel, it binds with calcium and phosphate present in the enamel to form a new crystal fluorapatite.
This crystalline form is stronger than calcium hydroxyapatite of enamel and doesn’t let the bacteria to form caries.
Fluoride can be used in various methods so that it enters the enamel surface to form fluorapatite crystals and fights against the bacteria.
When to use fluoride?
Fluoride treatment is more commonly used in patients and children who are found to be more susceptible to caries. In tooth decay prone areas, it can also be used as a preventive measure to avoid the formation of caries.
How to use fluoride?
Fluoride application by dentist: A child’s teeth are more susceptible to cavities than adults. It may be due to high consumption of sugar by children or presence of weaker or immature enamel. Many children are advised to go for the fluoride treatment at various ages to prevent caries.
Additionally and importantly, fluoride treatment can be given for adults also. It acts in the same way as in children. Susceptibility to caries cannot be only due to higher consumption of sugar or low oral hygiene maintenance. It can be due to other reasons such as genetic susceptibility, weaker tooth structure, medical conditions etc.
Fluoride toothpaste: low concentration of fluoride is commercially added in the toothpaste for daily application. Though many advertisements promise a lot of teeth and gum protection by homecare yet it is still best to use the toothpaste prescribed by the dentist.
Fluoride mouthwash: it works in the same way as toothpaste. It may not be as effective.
Sometimes there is an increased amount of fluoride present in your drinking water. You may be drinking it without knowing. Excessive fluoride can stain your teeth in an irreversible manner. In such cases, if you also use fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash without consulting a dentist, then its use is unfounded.