Fluoride 101: An unscientific explanation

Compiled Story and photo by Senior Airman E. McGee and
Airman 1st Class K. Sanchez-Rabago 435th Dental Squadron

Enough of the scientific-medical explanation that we all hear about fluoride. I am going to lay it out here for those of us who are not so “scientifically inclined” why fluoride is good for us.

Fluoride is an elemental ion that helps teeth resist a breakdown by acids that are in the mouth. Say what? Ok, Ok, fluoride is a protective shield that protects our teeth from decay and is best used when applied on the surface often and in low amounts.
Fluoride combats tooth decay in two ways.

It strengthens tooth enamel − a hard and shiny substance that protects the teeth − so that it can better resist the acid formed by plaque. Fluoride also allows teeth damaged by acid to repair, or re-mineralize themselves. Fluoride cannot repair large cavities, but it can reverse low levels of tooth decay and thus prevent new cavities from recurring.

Most children receive the right amount of fluoride through a combination of using fluoridated toothpaste, drinking fluoridated water and eating foods processed with fluoridated water. Even though the water off base in Germany and on some base facilities is not fluoridated, children still receive an adequate amount of fluoride from the sources listed above and from drinking water while visiting base facilities, such as the base schools.

If some fluoride is good, why not give children as much fluoride as possible? As with most minerals and vitamins, overexposure can be harmful. Too much fluoride before 8 years of age can cause enamel fluorosis, a discoloration or brown staining of the permanent teeth. Although this condition is harmless, it can be very unsightly. The Ramstein dental clinic does not recommend special fluoride supplements for children, since these supplements could result in children receiving too much fluoride and, possibly, permanent tooth staining.

So what did we learn today? Fluoride is a great scientific discovery that is on our side! Used right, it fights off decay to protect our teeth from cavities. Much of the base water supply, processed canned foods shipped or sold from the states, toothpaste that is visibly labeled to have fluoride and bottled water with fluoride are adequate sources of fluoride. All of these make supplements unnecessary.

Now, when you go to the dentist’s office or even the local commissary and see the word flouride, you will know what it means.