Fluoride is a natural mineral that is very effective in protecting teeth against decay.
Tooth decaybegins with dental plaque, a soft, sticky substance that builds up on your teeth. Plaque is mostly made up of bacteria, which feed on sugar form food and drink, producing acids as a waste product. The acids attack the teeth by dissolving the minerals in the tooth structure. If this happens too often, tooth decay results.
Minerals in saliva can mend the teeth. If fluoride is present in the mouth, it helps teeth to repair themselves. If fluoride is consumed in appropriate amounts by young children, it helps to make growing teeth more resistant to decay.
Fluoride in toothpaste
Most people get fluoride from toothpaste. Packs tell you how many parts per million of fluoride the toothpaste contains. A standard concentration is about 1000 ppm. All children over 6 should use toothpastes containing 1000 to 1500 ppm.
For patients who already have a lot of decay, dentists may recommend extra fluoride, either as tablets or drops, or as a varnish painted onto the teeth.