This electron micrograph shows how porous tooth enamel is. The dark spots are pores in the enamel crystal, which make the tooth vulnerable to acid attack. (Source: Journal of Islamic Academy of Sciences).
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element which helps to harden tooth enamel and make it more resistant to acid exposure. It helps protect against cavities (caries) and can reduce tooth sensitivity.
Topical (applied to the surface of the teeth) fluoride is generally recommended twice a year for children through their adolescent years to help prevent cavities. A dentist is the best person to assess the patient’s individual risk for cavities, and the developmental status of the patient’s teeth.
Topical fluoride supplementation is also recommended in patients who suffer from chronic dry mouth (xerostomia), generalized gingival recession, and sensitive teeth.
This scanning electron micrograph shows how flouride ions (see arrows) help to fill in voids in the crystal structure of enamel, especially the smaller pores. The fluoride ion displaces a portion of the enamel crystal that has a similar shape, but is slightly smaller than fluoride. The result is a crystal which is more dense, less porous, and more resistant to acids. (Source: Journal of Islamic Academy of Sciences).
When fluoride is incorporated in the diet of young children (mainly through water fluoridation programs), the entire enamel thickness may be less porous. When applied topically, only the surface enamel benefits. However, surface fluoridation of the teeth is believed to be the most effective at reducing cavities.
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Author: Thomas J. Greany, D.D.S. / Editor: Ken Lambrecht
This page was last updated on December 17, 2018.