Dental fluoride combines with the minerals in your teeth to form a stronger, more acid resistant enamel. When the acids produced by plaque on your teeth start to break down the minerals in your tooth enamel, a process called demineralization begins. Demineralization starts by weakening the enamel and leads to small cavities at first, but can progress into large areas of decay and eventual tooth loss. There are two ways that fluoride works to protect tooth enamel, systemically and topically.
- Systemically, fluoride works when teeth are developing in babies and children replacing some of the crystals in developing enamel with more decay resistant crystal containing fluoride. Systemic fluoride is ingested in fluoridated water, foods or supplements prescribed by dentist or pediatrician.
- Topical fluoride is contained in fluoride toothpaste and fluoride mouthwash and work from the outside of the tooth when you brush and rise. Topical fluoride treatments can also be administered at your dental office, less frequently and in higher concentrations.
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