Astoria General Dentist Discusses the Discovery of Fluoride

drinking waterAlthough your teeth were meant to last a lifetime, there are a number of ways for you to lend them a hand against harmful acids and tooth decay. Among those methods is the application of fluoride, which can be introduced in myriad ways, including through tap water and most toothpaste products. So how did an obscure mineral become one of dental hygiene’s most effective weapons, and how does it help protect your teeth? Your Astoria general dentist, Dr. Jeffrey Leibowitz, explores the discovery of fluoride’s dental benefits, and how it works on a molecular level to fortify your teeth’s natural defenses.

An Amazing Anomaly

The discovery of fluoride’s benefits actually occurred as a result of an investigation into a wide-spread dental problem. In the early 1900s, when Frederick McKay traveled to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to open his practice, the young dental school graduate was astonished to notice grotesque brown stains on the teeth of most of the town’s residents. It was years before McKay could generate enough interest in the phenomenon to spark a thorough investigation. The resulting research, however, discovered that the Colorado Brown Stain, and similar instances in towns across the country, was due to a high concentration of fluoride in the areas’ water supplies. The mineral was also responsible for what made the stains amazing in the first place—teeth afflicted with the unsightly blemishes were also strangely resistant to tooth decay.

Putting Fluoride to Use

It was many more years before fluoride’s interaction with human teeth was studied and refined enough to be put to good use without resultant staining, but by 1960, the fluoridation of municipal water supplies had become an official US policy. As mentioned above, you can also find the mineral in most major toothpaste brands, and if your teeth are at risk for tooth decay, you can receive a topical fluoride application at your Astoria general dentist’s office. Whatever the manner in which you receive it, the secret to fluoride’s effectiveness lies in its reaction with your tooth enamel.

Enamel, which is the strongest substance that your body produces, is comprised almost entirely of compacted mineral crystals (mainly calcium and phosphate). The process of tooth decay begins when acids produced by oral bacteria deplete minerals from your teeth and weaken your enamel. When fluoride is introduced to your teeth, it strengthens your enamel by binding to its surface, preventing the risk of bacteria sneaking past weak enamel to infect your tooth with decay.

Keep Your Smile Strong with Help from Astoria General Dentist

Though fluoride is successful at strengthening your enamel, it is only beneficial as an enhancement to your dental hygiene routine. Effectively protecting your smile requires brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day, as well as attending a thorough dental checkup and cleaning every six months or sooner. To schedule a dental consultation, contact your Astoria general dentist by calling (718) 728-8320. We proudly serve patients from Astoria, Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the surrounding communities.