Fluoride toothpaste

Fluoride: Mystery No More

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Fluoride is often added to drinking water, toothpastes and mouthwashes. Though it’s been known for years to reduce the risk of tooth decay, it remains controversial exactly how it does so.

Until recently, researchers were not entirely sure how fluoride protected our teeth. Scientists earlier linked fluoride with the strengthening of the tooth’s enamel. Now, advanced studies have shown that fluoride might actually work in two ways.

SEE ALSO: Drinking Water, Fluoride & Your Teeth

The fluoride mystery is now as close as ever to being solved as new research by a team of Scientists from Saarland University found that the mineral not only strengthens the teeth, it also prevents bacteria from sticking to the tooth surface.

Karin Jacobs, a physicist at Saarland University in Germany, said “when fluoride bonds with tooth enamel, bacteria probably cannot hold onto it as strongly” This means that with fluoride protection, the harmful bacteria are easier to wash away with brushing, saliva and other activities.

The study was published in the American Chemical Society in the journal Langumir.

Fluoride Recommendations

As recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, use a 'smear' of toothpaste for children less than three years of age and a 'pea-sized' amount for children aged three to six.

This recommendation is made to avoid excessive fluoride exposure (dental fluorosis) while the teeth are developing. Dental fluorosis is a change in the appearance of the tooth’s enamel, commonly causing white spots that stain the teeth. This can happen when fluoride supplements are given to children, age 8 or younger, who live in areas where the water supply is fluoridated. It can also happen when children swallow toothpaste.

Make sure that your children brush their teeth for two minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste. To avoid dental fluorosis, teach your children to spit out toothpaste and rinse their mouth after brushing.

Updated: 15 March 2016