How Does Fluoride Work? Is there a Safer and More Natural Way to Help Prevent Cavities?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring form of the very common element fluorine. It is found all over the place–in water, food, plants, soil, rocks and so forth.
When your body takes in fluoride, it almost completely stored in your bones and teeth. It is known to help the mineralization process of your bones and teeth. It is also thought to help prevent, or lower the risk of, cavities.
With that basic understanding of what Fluoride is, why exactly would it help to prevent cavities?
First, let’s look at the basic formation, or cause, of a cavity. The word itself is related to the word “cave” and its basic meaning is a hole or a hollow space.
Your teeth are quite hard, on the outside, due to a layer of super-tough calcium. This calcium comes in a form known as “hydroxyapatite” which is a naturally occurring form of calcium that makes up the majority of your bones and teeth.
Some bacteria in your mouth create a lot of acid. This acid eats away at the enamel and removes minerals (mostly the calcium) from the teeth. This is called demineralization.
In a normal and healthy mouth, nature has developed systems to fight this acidity and to put the minerals back. This is called remineralization.
In simple terms, when things are in balance then the mineralization process is stable and your enamel stays strong. But when the bacteria grow out of balance and your mouth is too acidic, then the enamel is weakened and the cavity formation process starts.
How does fluoride fit in to the process of cavity prevention?
Hydroxyapatite (the natural mineral that makes up most of your enamel) is made up of a few different elements (think of ingredients in a cake) and what fluoride does is to simply replace some of those elements (ingredients) to create a different mineral called “fluorapatite” that is also very hard and good at protecting your teeth.
Going back to our cake example, if you took out the vanilla flavor and substituted chocolate then you would still have a cake but just a different cake.
As a note, studies going back several decades point to the fact that fluoride is most effective in cavity prevention when it is directly applied to the teeth. This would suggest that water fluoridation may be less effective than thought.
Bottom line, the fundamental reason that fluoride is thought to help prevent cavities is that it is effective at remineralizing the enamel. When applied directly to the teeth, it helps to form a strong mineral (fluorapatite) that strengthens the enamel and repairs the damage done by bacterial acid and demineralization.
So, What Could Be Wrong with Using Fluoride Toothpaste or Drinking Fluoridated Water?
The naturally occurring intake of fluoride is not a concern. While some isolated pockets of the world may have unusually high fluoride levels in the water and soil, for most everyone this is not a concern.
And while fluoride in small doses is likely not an issue, the idea of using it daily (maybe several times) in tooth care products as well as the additional fluoride intake from the water supply–on top of naturally occurring intake–is another issue altogether.
One known side effect is dental fluorosis, discoloration of the enamel, which results from an excessive intake of fluoride at an early age. Studies show that roughly one-third of American children have signs of fluorosis, proving the intake of too much fluoride.
A well-respected health professional, Dr. Mercola, cites numerous studies that suggest some serious side-effects (from bone fracturing to brain cancer) that could be linked to excessive fluoride intake.
And, potential health issues aside, the fact is that the natural process of remineralizing and protecting your teeth is by using hydroxapatite, not the fluoride version of fluorapatite.
A specialized form of hydroxapatite is called “nano-hydroxyapatite” as it is super tiny and so able to easily and effectively bond to your teeth. Although it is manufactured in labs, it is completely natural and bonds to your teeth exactly like hydroxapatite.
It has the benefits of:
One, it is bioactive and biologically compatible so your body can naturally use and absorb it without inflammation or allergic responses
Two, it actually works to prevent the acid causing bacteria from sticking to your teeth.
Three, it discourages plaque formation
Four, it is anti-microbial which means it is good at fighting the bad bacteria in your mouth
Five, it is PURE WHITE and so when it bonds to the teeth it actually helps to whiten your teeth (unlike fluoride which can actually cause darkening and staining)
For all the reasons above, we do not recommend the use of fluoride toothpastes or the ongoing intake of fluoride. It not only has too many potential risks but it is actually not the best way to strengthen your teeth and prevent cavities.
We fully support and recommend the use of natural toothpaste formulations, such as our OraRestore Pro-Mineralizing Toothpaste, that employs nano-hydroxyapatite
to get the job done–just as nature intended and designed.