Did you know that the enamel that covers your teeth has the hardness of a mild steel? Enamel owes its strength to a crystalline structure called “hydroxyapatite.” This compound is made up primarily of calcium and phosphate, and is by far the hardest substance in your body—even harder than bone!
With a super hard layer covering your teeth, why do we end up with cavities? When you eat carbohydrates like pasta, bread, or candy, the bacteria in your mouth release lactic acid. This acid attacks the enamel of your teeth, stealing away the calcium and phosphate. As your enamel weakens, it becomes more susceptible to decay. This process is called “demineralization.” Fortunately, your saliva is filled with calcium and other minerals. As the saliva bathes your teeth, the lost minerals are replaced through “remineralization.” However, when the balance of demineralization and remineralization is lost, cavities result.
This is where fluoride comes into play. You may have heard of dentists providing Fluoride Treatment in Mountlake Terrace, WA. But why? What does fluoride do?
First, it’s necessary to know what fluoride is. Fluoride is an ion of the element fluorine and is found in rocks and stone, which is partially why they are so hard. What does that have to do with teeth? When fluoride is present in the remineralization process, it can replace some of the hydroxyl groups in hydroxyapatite to create “fluoroapatite.”  Fluoroapatite is more resistant to the acid excreted by bacteria and is actually stronger than hydroxyapatite. What’s more, fluoride actually helps with the redepositing of calcium and phosphate in your teeth, making it easier to rebuild the crystals that make up enamel.[3,4]
There are two ways to get the benefits of fluoride: systemic and topical application. Systemic application comes in large part from water. As water passes over rock, it picks up flourides. As you drink water, you introduce fluoride to your body. Many water sources in the United States are also fluoridated to increase fluoride levels. Fluorides are also present in the food we eat, and are available in supplements. Fluoride supplements are available in tablet, drop, or lozenge form, but require a prescription.
Topical fluoride application is accomplished by using toothpastes and mouth rinses that contain fluoride (look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance to ensure that the product has fluoride). Additionally, professionally applied fluoride foams, gels, and varnishes—like those used in Flouride Treatment in Mountlake, Terrace, WA—are available. Foams are applied via a mouth guard and take around one to four minutes for application. Flouride varnishes are painted onto teeth, and gels are applied either by mouth guard or painting.
Keeping your enamel strong—and your teeth healthy—can be as simple as making sure to provide your teeth with the fluoride they need. While you can rely on fluoridated water, (one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century, according to the Center for Disease Control ), visiting your dentist for a fluoride treatment can help keep your enamel as hard as steel.