If you’re wondering how the mineral fluoride can help protect your child’s oral health and prevent cavities, look no further than this guide from Altoona Smiles.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
You might have heard that it’s good for children to cut down on sugar to avoid cavities, but how exactly does sugar cause tooth decay? The answer is that while sugar is an indirect cause of tooth decay, it is also an essential factor in the tooth decay process. All people of all ages have bacteria that live in their mouths. While some of the bacteria are helpful, other kinds of bacteria can potentially be harmful.
Tooth decay is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus mutans. Streptococcus mutans is a naturally occurring bacteria that lives in everybody’s mouth, on the surface of teeth. When the bacteria Streptococcus mutans consumes and digests sugar, it produces an acid that dissolves tooth enamel. When the tooth decay progresses to a point where there is a small, permanent hole in the tooth, then this permanent damage is called a cavity.
Why Should Parents Take Cavity Prevention Seriously?
Although it’s common for children (and adults) to get cavities, it is important for people of all ages to make an appointment with their dentist and seek treatment. Dentists treat and repair cavities every day. But when cavities are left untreated, tooth decay can pose an enormous risk to the health of your teeth and even the rest of your body. Untreated tooth decay can progress in the following ways:
- A tooth abscess. The damaged tooth can become infected and form a pocket of pus. Symptoms can include a toothache.
- Tooth loss. If the decay and infection reach a certain level of severity, the tooth cannot be salvaged.
- The infection can spread. If the tooth abscess is not treated, it could get worse and spread to other parts of the face, jaw, head, and body.
What Is Fluoride?
You may have heard of fluoride as an ingredient in toothpaste or mouthwash. Fluoride is a chemical compound that is found in all living systems on Earth. It is a naturally-occurring mineral that is found in rocks and is released into the soil, water, and air. It is absorbed by plants, animals, and humans. Fluoride has no taste or smell and can be found in foods such as apples, cereal, almonds, and tea. Lab-synthesized fluoride is also a common ingredient in dental hygiene products due to its properties in preventing tooth decay.
How Does Fluoride Prevent Cavities?
Fluoride can help strengthen the enamel of your teeth and prevent cavities. In the early 1900s, scientists made an impactful discovery regarding the mineral. They observed that residents of American towns with more naturally-occurring fluoride in their drinking water supply had healthier teeth and significantly less tooth decay compared to neighboring populations with fluoride-deficit drinking water.
Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by protecting tooth enamel from plaque and sugars. Fluoride also strengthens teeth by aiding the buildup of healthy minerals in the enamel and fighting existing tooth decay. Children and parents alike can enjoy the oral health benefits of fluoride when buying dental hygiene products with the mineral or in their tap water. If you’re wondering if there’s fluoride in the tap water of your home, you can find out by calling your local water utility company or the public health department, or by checking online at the CDC’s website.
If it’s time for you or your child’s twice-a-year dentist’s exam, you should make an appointment, whether or not someone is experiencing a toothache. For patients in the Altoona, IA area, consider Altoona Smiles for your family and cosmetic dentistry needs. Call 515-200-1299 to ask about dental implants or schedule a visit today.