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The Effects Of Fluoride In Dental Caries

1136 words - 5 pages

Health Canada classifies fluoride as “an element that has a beneficial effect on dental caries” (1). Fluoride is a mineral found in soil, water (both fresh and salt), air, foods, supplements, water, and dental products. Water fluoridation is the process of fortifying the natural fluoride content of public water supplies to a level that is known to improve dental health and prevent tooth decay (2) .The usual chemicals for fluoride are: hexafluorosilic acid, disodium hexafluorosilicate or sodium fluoride. Fluoride mostly enters the body via the gastrointestinal tract and is absorbed quickly in the stomach and acts primarily through its retention in dental plaque and saliva. The rate of fluoride absorption is directly related to the acidity of the stomachs contents (3), once fluoride is absorbed it reaches the plasma, it is then rapidly deposited in the skeleton or excreted through the kidneys.
Fluoride is used in dentistry two ways; the first, topical fluoride acts on the teeth already present and include toothpastes, rinses, gels, and varnishes. The second is systemic fluoride which is ingested into the body and becomes incorporated into forming structures through supplements and water fluoridation. Fluoride protects the tooth enamel against the acids that cause tooth decay. Fluoride has five principle mechanisms of action: inhibits demineralization, promotes remineralization of tooth enamel, inhibits bacterial metabolism or enzyme activity in dental plaque by reducing the ability of the plaque organism to produce acid, aids in post eruptive maturation of enamel, and reduces enamel solubility (1). The current understanding of these mechanisms of action indicates that fluorides major effect in the prevention of decay is through topical post-eruptive use. The conclusions of many studies have shown that fluoride use decreases the incidence of dental caries. A study by the U.S. Task Force on Community Preventive Services found that “communities that stopped water fluoridation on average experienced an 18% increase in dental caries after discontinuation.” (4) Fluoride deficiencies may lead to cavities, and weakened bones and teeth.
There are many controversies surrounding the use of fluoride. However the benefits of fluoride use are well documented. Firstly fluoride plays many important roles in the prevention of tooth decay. “People with lifelong exposure to fluoride have significant amounts of fluorapatite in the enamel structure of their teeth…Fluorapatite is more stable and resistant to demineralization and therefore provides resistance to tooth decay.” (2) Secondly the presence of fluoride in the oral environment enhances remineralization of the enamel. Fluoride also inhibits the metabolism of sugars by bacteria which cause acids that leads to demineralization. The benefits of fluoride also extend beyond the obvious prevention of caries. Tooth decay can also have a negative effect on self-esteem, quality of life, eating, speaking,...

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