Fluoride is a naturally occurring chemical that has been found to fortify the enamel matrix (shell) of teeth, thus preventing decay. Most Canadian communities have some form of fluoridation in their water supply. Interestingly, some communities require their drinking water to be de-fluoridated, as the fluoride content is too high. Some private wells may not have fluoride, so it is important to get your drinking water checked by a qualified water specialist.
Fluoride is a safe compound found throughout nature; in the water we drink and the air we breathe, and in many kinds of foods
Used systemically, fluoride can be absorbed into the internal matrix (dentin) and external matrix (enamel) teeth to enhance the strength of the tissue. If fluoride is absorbed while the teeth are in the formative stages, the resulting tooth structure is much more cavity-resistant. Fluoride can also be taken up into bones, allowing them to become more resistant to fractures.
Topical application of fluoride, such as using fluoride toothpastes and/or rinses, allows for the process of “re-mineralization” to occur. This is a process whereby the fluoride replaces calcium in the enamel matrix that has been removed by acid. The result is that the enamel tissue actually repairs itself. However, once a cavity gets into the dentin matrix a filling must be used to repair the tooth.
If your drinking water supply is not fluoridated, you should consider supplementing with fluoride pills. As the years have gone by, the level of fluoride supplementation in drinking water has been decreased as many of our everyday drinks from the grocery store (apple and orange juice, club soda, etc.) also contain fluoride.
Professionally applied fluoride comes in the form of dental varnishes and topical gels that are applied for prescribed times in the dental office. Also, many of the new white resin fillings have fluoride impregnated within the filling material. Once the filling has cured, fluoride is slowly released around the margins of the filling to help prevent recurrent decay.
It is generally NOT safe to swallow toothpastes, rinses, or other products containing topical fluoride. In rare cases, exposure to high concentrations of fluoride can result in a relatively harmless condition called fluorosis, which leaves dark stains on tooth enamel.