Provided that the total
daily intake of fluoride is carefully monitored, fluoride is considered to be a most important
health measure in maintaining oral health for all Canadians.
Tooth decay happens when plaque — that sticky film of bacteria that builds up on teeth — breaks down sugars in food. The bacteria produce damaging acids that dissolve the hard enamel surfaces of teeth.
If the damage is not stopped or treated, the bacteria can penetrate through the enamel and cause tooth decay (also called cavities or caries). Cavities weaken teeth and can lead to pain, tooth loss, or even widespread infection in the most severe cases.
Fluoride combats tooth decay in two ways:
Fluoride prevents the acid produced by the bacteria in plaque from dissolving, or demineralizing, tooth enamel, the hard and shiny substance that protects the teeth. Fluoride also allows teeth damaged by acid to repair, or remineralize, themselves. Fluoride cannot repair cavities, but it can reverse low levels of tooth decay and thus prevent new cavities from forming.
Sometimes, we see patients in the dental office who have had few fillings in their life and have no current decay. This shows us that you are getting adequate fluoride from other sources (water, food, supplements, etc.) and we will not give you topical fluoride as part of your treatment. However, sometimes patients come in who have had lots of fillings, and have current cavities that need filling. This shows us that fluoride consumption is not adequate and we will do a fluoride treatment in the office, or even recommend a weekly fluoride rinse.
In short, fluoride is safe, effective and economical (when added to municipal drinking water). Making sure that you and your children are getting enough fluoride may save you on dental bills and unnecessary pain down the road. If you ever have questions, make sure you ask your doctor or dentist. They can help you make an informed decision on your course of treatment.