Fluoride, which is a mineral, occurs naturally in water and many foods. Every day, tooth enamel loses and gains minerals through processes called demineralization and remineralization. The former process can lead to tooth decay, while the latter strengthens teeth. Acids formed from sugars and acids in the mouth cause demineralization and tooth decay, while minerals like fluoride, calcium and phosphate strengthen tooth enamel. In fact, fluoride can not only strengthen teeth, but it can also reverse the early stages of tooth decay.
What is Demineralization?
Demineralization is the process through which tooth enamel loses the minerals that keep it strong. It happens when bacteria in the mouth feed on food left on teeth. The bacteria create an acid that then eats away at the enamel.
The acid also causes “white scars” or decalcification, which is the result of the acid leaching calcium and other minerals out of the tooth enamel. While braces themselves don’t cause demineralization or decalcification, they can trap food, and that leads to the plaque buildup that can cause such problems.
How Do You Get Fluoride?
Fluoride occurs naturally in water and some food. It has also been added to some toothpastes and mouthwashes. While substances containing low concentrations of fluoride can be obtained over-the-counter, those with higher concentrations require a prescription.
Dental professionals often administer fluoride treatments. The fluoride in these treatments can take the form of a foam, gel or varnish. The specialist will either paint it on the patient’s teeth or put it in a mouth guard and slip that over the patient’s teeth. Fluoride can also be sold as a supplement like vitamins. This type of fluoride can be sold in tablet or liquid form and requires a prescription.
Orthodontics and Tooth Decay
Having braces increases the risk of tooth decay. Not only do braces make it harder to keep teeth clean, but they also provide nooks and crannies where plaque and food can get trapped. Failing to keep teeth and braces clean, however, can result in permanent damage to the teeth.
For instance, as tooth enamel loses minerals, white spots or scars form on the surface – and these white spots are an early sign of tooth decay. Among the more basic ways to prevent tooth decay is to avoid sugary foods and drinks. Sticky foods and starchy foods can easily get trapped in braces and should also be avoided.
The patient should also use a toothpaste fortified with fluoride and brush their teeth thoroughly but gently to avoid breaking wires. After brushing their teeth, they should use a fluoride mouthwash. Our orthodontist can help provide you with names of these products.
Schedule Your Appointment Today
With locations in Fort Walton Beach and Niceville, the office of Dr. Brodie Bowman is committed to providing the utmost in quality orthodontic care. Contact us today to schedule your appointment for an assessment.