Fluoride Mystery Solved: Fighting Tooth Decay

The fluoride mystery may finally be solved. Scientists have speculated for nearly five decades about how fluoride, added to drinking water and oral-care products, prevents tooth decay. The latest studies, published in the ACS journal Langumir, may finally explain how it works.

Karin Jacobs led the research into how fluoride prevents or reduces tooth decay. Researchers conducted the study using artificial teeth, constructed of hydroxypatite.

Previous materials were porous, unlike actual teeth. The new compound provided a smooth, hard surface, which allowed researchers more accurate results.

As reported by Phys.org, Jacobs’ study explored the possibility that fluoride effected bacterial adhesion onto the teeth. Scientists previously linked fluoride with the strengthening of the tooth’s enamel. However, newer studies have found that fluoride might actually work in two ways.

Although fluoride does penetrate the tooth, strengthening the enamel, it does not penetrate as deeply as previously thought. Although thin, the layer effected by the fluoride was shown to be stronger, confirming previous theories.

In addition to making enamel stronger, fluoride has now been shown to prevent bacteria from sticking to the teeth. Bacteria naturally exists in the mouth. However, if the bacteria sticks to the teeth, it leads to tooth decay.

Fluoride prevents the bacteria from sticking, protecting the teeth from the harmful effects. As the fluoride has been shown to strengthen the teeth, and prevent the adhesion of bacteria, much of the fluoride mystery is solved.

As discussed at Water.EPA.gov, fluoride is a salt formed by combining minerals with fluorine. The amount of fluoride allowed in drinking water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. However, the decision to include fluoride in drinking water is decided at the state and local level.

Minute levels of fluoride enter drinking water naturally. However, many states and localities add it to promote oral health.

Until recently, researchers were not entirely sure how fluoride protected the teeth. The fluoride mystery is now closer to being solved as studies show that it not only strengthens the teeth, it prevents bacteria from sticking to the surface.