The importance of fluoride for dental health was discovered when dentists began to notice better oral health and lesser incidence of tooth decay in people who drank fluoride contained water supply. The practice of adding fluoride to public drinking water began in 1954.
The goal was to achieve a level of one part fluoride in about a million parts of water. Studies show that water fluoridation brought down the percentage of dental decay in children by 50 percent.
Enamel, which is the outer layer of the tooth, is composed of mineral crystals that are densely packed and are lost and recovered on a daily basis. The process of losing minerals is called demineralization and occurs when mouth acids attack the crystals and dissolve them. When minerals are lost, the body begins to deposit calcium, fluoride and phosphate in the enamel and the process is called remineralization. Intake of fluoride is absorbed by the cells into the child’s permanent teeth. It helps to accelerate the process of remineralisation and interferes with the production of bacterial acid, thereby preventing tooth decay and keeping teeth strong and healthy. This is the reason why when you take a child to a dentist, he or she will use fluoride shots as one method of giving adequate fluoride to the body.
Cavities, if neglected, lead to further problems like decay of dental pulp. Such a condition will require a dental filling or might even warrant a root canal procedure.
Supplements of fluoride are recommended for children between the age of 6 and 16, who do not have access to fluoridated water. These supplements can be in the form of rinses and gels and are prescribed by dentists.
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