Fluoride is a natural mineral present throughout the earth’s crust and distributed in nature. Some water supplies and foods contain fluoride, too. The mineral is added to drinking water in order to prevent tooth decay. About 99% of fluoride in a human body is found in the bones and teeth[i]. You already know that fluoride is a common ingredient in oral hygiene products, but how effective is it? In this post, we explore fluoride and its role in caries prevention in the adult population.
Can fluoride prevent caries in adults?
Fluoride has become a staple ingredient in oral hygiene products for both children and adults so it comes as no surprise why many studies have been carried out on this subject. That said, the role of fluoride in caries prevention in children is more thoroughly explored than its efficacy in decreasing risk of caries among adults.
The Journal of Dental Research published a review of studies about the relationship between fluoride and caries in adults. The review found that this mineral can, indeed, prevent caries among adults of all ages[ii]. The Evidence-Based Dentistry journal featured a research which confirmed the importance of fluoride in caries prevention. The study showed that toothpastes containing 1500ppm of fluoride had a superior preventive effect[iii] than others. Researchers also emphasized the importance of more studies evaluating the effects of fluoride in the adult population, not just teens and kids.
Can we get enough fluoride from our diet?
There are numerous foods, containing fluoride. Some of the foods, containing fluoride are cereals, tea, citrus fruits, fishmeal, vegetables, shrimp meat, and more. However, the problem is that our body usually lacks enough fluoride in our body despite keeping them in our diet plan.
The urination is a common body process of all living beings. The urination process is the major route of excretion of fluoride. More than 85% of the total excretion of fluoride happens due to urination[iv]. In addition, the reabsorption of fluoride from urine is very less. Due to this reason, it’s recommended to use toothpaste, containing 1500 ppm of fluoride for maintaining enough fluoride in the body.
The problem of fluoride deficiency is usually found in the people who live in the places where the only small amount of fluoride is added to the water. This is a concern for World Health Organization as well, and they are working to sort out this problem.
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How does fluoride work?
Evidence about the relationship between fluoride and cancer prevention in adults is limited but confirmatory. In order to understand how fluoride works, it is necessary to understand the mechanisms behind caries formation. Dental caries is a result of the action of acids on the enamel surface. This acid is produced when sugars from foods and beverages react with bacteria present in plaque on the surface of your teeth.
At least two major types of bacteria are able to produce organic acids. They are Lactobacilli species and Mutans streptococci. Production of these acids dissolves the mineral of enamel and dentine. They readily diffuse in all directions and through the cracks in enamel to the underlying tissue. As the acid diffuses in the tooth it finds acid-soluble material and starts dissolving it. If this process is long enough it leads to caries[v].
Fluoride works by slowing down the process of demineralization wherein the enamel loses calcium and phosphate when exposed to the above-mentioned acids. At the same time, fluoride has the potential to heal or re-mineralize surfaces which exhibit signs of demineralization. In turn, it strengthens the weakened tooth enamel and reverses early signs of caries. The most beneficial effects occur if low levels of fluoride are present in the mouth throughout the day. This only emphasizes the importance of brushing your teeth regularly. An increasing number of Americans brush their teeth once a day[vi] which is not enough.
For many people brushing teeth with toothpaste that contains fluoride may not be enough and it is important to drink water that contains this mineral. Here comes the problem, many Americans drink bottled water and brands tend to use different levels of fluoride in their products. As a result, some people may not get enough of this mineral[vii]. If you’re drinking water that is not fluoridated, then make sure your toothpaste contains enough of this mineral and you can buy mouthwash with fluoride as well.
Signs of fluoride deficiency
The obvious sign of fluoride deficiency is tooth decay[viii]. Bacteria that are present in plaque that gathers on teeth makes use of sugar and carbohydrates in order to generate acids. The presence of these acids ultimately wears away the enamel of the tooth.
How does fluoride deficiency affect overall health?
The immediate effect of fluoride deficiency is tooth decay. However, the effect of fluoride deficiency is not only limited to tooth decay. It has a greater impact than tooth decay. The tooth decay is followed by plaque development, which eventually leads to gum problems.
It’s often seen that gum problems are not diagnosed. Due to undiagnosed gum problems, the person’s overall health starts to deteriorate without their consent. When this problem is left untreated, the bacteria that are stored in the mouth can enter the bloodstream. This entrance of bacteria into the bloodstream then leads to numerous serious health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, and clogged arteries.
Some other health problems that are associated with lack of fluoride in the body are:
- Weak/Brittle bones
- Fractured hips in the old age
How can we treat fluoride deficiency?
In order to avoid the health hazards of a fluoride deficiency, it is extremely crucial to treat fluoride deficiency. Some of the methods that I am about to mention can be implemented in your home while some others may require you to visit a clinic.
Without further ado, let us check out some of the ways to treat a fluoride deficiency.
- Mouthwash and toothpaste- There are topical toothpastes and mouthwashes that are available on the market, and one of the popular toothpastes is Colgate Total. Both mouthwashes and toothpastes can be directly applied to the mouth without any major side effects. Check out the fluoride content before purchasing mouthwashes and toothpastes.
- Bloodstream- The intake of fluoride can be increased with the consumption of supplements and fluoridated water. However, it’s recommended that you consult a doctor before the consumption of any kind of supplements. And, do check the reviews as well. The intake of supplements and water automatically get access to bloodstreams.
- Professional treatment- The final method to deal with fluoride deficiency is professional treatment. If you’re experiencing difficulties due to the problems associated with fluoride deficiency, an appointment with a dentist can help you out to get quick relief from your problems.
A dentist can help you apply gel, foam fluoride, or varnish for getting rid of the problems.
Benefits of fluoride for caries prevention are well-documented, but the greatest portion of evidence revolves around children and adolescents. Studies confirm that fluoride can prevent caries in adults too. That’s why it’s important to drink fluoridated water and use toothpaste containing fluoride to prevent demineralization, weakening of enamel, and the onset of caries.
To get the best knowledge of the fluoride requirement for your age, here is the source[ix]. If you manage to maintain the fluoride requirement in your body, you can prevent not only your teeth, but also the health problems associated with bones in the other parts of the body along with various heart diseases.
[i] What happens to fluoride in your body? Public Health, Europa.eu https://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/opinions_layman/fluoridation/en/l-3/2.htm
[ii] Griffin SO, Regnier E, Griffin PM, Huntley V, et al. Effectiveness of fluoride in preventing caries in adults. Journal of Dental Research 2007 May;86(5):410-5. Doi: 10.1177/154405910708600504 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17452559
[iii] Topping G, Assaf A. Strong evidence that daily use of fluoride toothpaste prevents caries. Evidence-Based Dentistry 2005;6(2):32. Doi: 10.1038/sj.ebd.6400320 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16208382
[iv] Fluoride intake and fractional urinary fluoride excretion of Colombian preschool children Community Dent Health. 2005 Dec;22(4):272-8 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16379167
[v] Featherstone JDB. Dental caries: a dynamic disease process. Australian Dental Journal 2008 May;53:286-91. Doi:10.1111/j.1834-7819.2008.00064.x https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1834-7819.2008.00064.x
[vi] Millennials brush their teeth less often than you think, ConsumerHealthDigest https://www.consumerhealthdigest.com/health-news/one-third-millennials-brush-teeth-once-a-day.html
[vii] How does fluoride strengthen teeth and why add it to the public water supply? TuftsNow http://now.tufts.edu/articles/fluoride-teeth-public-water-supply
[viii] Fluoride Deficiency & Signs, Colgate
[ix] Guideline on Fluoride Therapy