14 American Dental Association Studies indicate fluoride has a third mechanism of action that hinders the ability of bacteria to metabolize carbohydrates and produce acids.5 It can also hinder the ability of the bacteria to stick to the tooth surface.8 Fluoride and minerals, including calcium and phosphate, are present in saliva6,8 and are stored in dental plaque. To halt the formation of tooth decay or rebuild tooth surfaces, fluoride must be constantly present in low concentrations in saliva and plaque.6 Frequent exposure to small amounts of fluoride, such as that which occurs when drinking fluoridated water, helps to maintain the reservoir of available fluoride in saliva and plaque to resist demineralization and enhance remineralization.6,9 In other words, drinking fluoridated water provides the right amount of fluoride at the right place at the right time. Fluoride in water and water-based beverages is consumed many times during the day, providing frequent contact with tooth structures and making fluoride available to fluoride reservoirs in the mouth. This helps explain why fluoride at the low levels found in fluoridated water helps to prevent tooth decay.6 Additionally, studies have concluded that fluoride ingested during tooth formation becomes incorporated into the tooth structure making the teeth more resistant to acid attacks and demineralization.10-14 In particular, this pre-eruptive exposure to fluoride, before the teeth come into the mouth during childhood, can play a significant role in preventing tooth decay in the pits and fissures of the chewing surfaces, particularly of molars.6,15,16 Sources of fluorides in the United States that provide this pre-eruptive effect include fluoridated water and dietary fluoride supplements as well as fluoride present in foods and beverages. Additionally, young children often swallow substantial percentages of the fluoride toothpaste and other fluoride- containing dental products which adds to their intake of fluoride. Originally, it was believed that fluoride’s action was exclusively pre-eruptive, meaning the benefit occurred only during tooth formation, but by the mid-1950s there was growing evidence of the importance of fluoride’s important roles in demineralization and remineralization.11 Pre-eruptive effects are sometimes called systemic, while post-eruptive effects are called topical. These terms refer to different things. Pre- and post-eruptive refer to the timing of fluoride benefits while systemic and topical refer to the mode of administration or source of fluoride. Defining the effects of fluoride from a specific source as solely systemic or topical is not entirely accurate. For example, water fluoridation provides both a systemic (during tooth development) and topical effect (at the time of ingestion strengthening the outside of the tooth). Today it is understood that the maximum reduction in tooth decay occurs when both effects are combined, that is when fluoride has been incorporated into the tooth during formation and when it is available at the tooth surface during demineralization and remineralization. Water fluoridation works in both ways to prevent tooth decay.8,11,13,15,16 Today it is understood that the maximum reduction in tooth decay occurs when both effects are combined, that is when fluoride has been incorporated into the tooth during formation and when it is available at the tooth surface during demineralization and remineralization. Water fluoridation works in both ways to prevent tooth decay. 3. What is water fluoridation? Answer. Water fluoridation is the controlled adjustment of the natural fluoride concentration in community water supplies to the concentration recommended for optimal dental health. Fluoridation helps prevent tooth decay in children and adults. Fact. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), using the best available science, established the recommended concentration for fluoride in the water in the United States at 0.7 mg/L.17 This level effectively reduces tooth decay while minimizing dental fluorosis. The level of fluoride in water is measured in milligrams per liter (mg/L) or parts per million (ppm). When referring to water, a concentration in milligrams per liter is identical to parts per million and the notations can be used interchangeably. Thus, 0.7 mg/L of fluoride in water is identical to 0.7 ppm. The preferred notation is milligrams per liter.
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