What is Tooth Decay?
Tooth enamel is hard yet porous. Plaque on the surface of your teeth can produce acids that seep into the pores (rods) of the enamel and break down its internal structure. This process, called demineralization, can create a weak spot on the surface of the tooth that may become a cavity if left untreated. Decay often begins on biting surfaces, between the teeth, on exposed roots, and around existing fillings. Untreated, decay spreads into the tooth and can destroy the tooth structure. Decay enters and infects the pulp. Acid enters rods in the teeth and breaks down enamel.
The Role of Fluoride
Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by slowing the breakdown of enamel and speeding up the remineralization process. The new enamel crystals that form are harder, larger, and more resistant to acid. Fluoride increases the rate of remineralization and protects against demineralization Fluoride enters rods in the tooth to treat broken-down enamel Enamel is remineralized after addition of fluoride
Treating and Preventing Tooth Decay
Common sources of fluoride are fluoridated drinking water, toothpaste, and mouth rinse. Inform your dentist if your drinking water is not fluoridated. He or she may recommend that you use high-concentration fluoride gels, mouth rinses, drops, or tablets. To help strengthen weak spots and exposed roots and prevent the early stages of tooth decay, brush regularly with a fluoridated toothpaste. In one study, patients using a fluoride toothpaste developed 41% fewer cavities than patients using a toothpaste without fluoride. Daily brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, as well as regular flossing and professional cleanings, will help prevent cavities and preserve your oral health.