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Why get flouride? Why not?

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – --

You have probably gotten a fluoride treatment at your annual dental appointment and wondered, “What is this fluoride for?” Oral health is a battle between you and bacteria. There are always bacteria in your mouth and they never stop working. They constantly produce plaque and acid that etch the minerals out of the teeth. This is the process of cavitation and tooth decay. Have you ever wondered why the bacteria work 24/7, but people do not get cavities every day? It is because of saliva and fluoride! Brushing and flossing help to remove most of the bacteria in your mouth and keep your gums healthy, but what about the teeth that have already been damaged?

When a tooth is damaged, it will naturally absorb more minerals from the saliva and/or fluoride from toothpaste. We call this process re-mineralization. Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in soil, water and foods, and it works to strengthen the surfaces of your teeth. Most American cities add fluoride to the public water system in government-regulated amounts that have been proven to help prevent cavities. We recommend fluoride treatments to people who only drink bottled water because they are missing this essential mineral.

The recommended amount of fluoride for cavity prevention is 0.7mg/L, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some public water supplies have less than this amount and some have more. The CDC monitors fluoride levels in all public water supplies.

You may ask, “Why do some people still get cavities if saliva and fluoride are supposed to help prevent them?" That is because your mouth is the battlefield for a constant war between you and the bacteria. When you eat snacks or sip sweetened drinks, the sugar feeds the bacteria, the bacteria creates more acid and this accelerates the process of demineralization. At the dental clinic, we help by providing fluoride treatments at annual visits. The fluoride we use is more concentrated than regular toothpastes and it can bond to the teeth for longer periods of time. Fluoride helps reverse the cavity process and win the battle against bacteria, which can mean less “drilling and filling.” So, why not?

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