Fluoride Mystery Solved? The Science Behind How It Helps Our Teeth

on May 09 2013 9:20 AM

The mystery surrounding how fluoride is beneficial for one’s teeth and helps prevent tooth decay may have been solved. A new study provides an explanation for why fluoride is a dentist’s best friend.

In a study published in the journal Langumir, researchers from Saarland University discovered how fluoride helps reduce the risk of tooth decay. Fluoride is a compound that is added to water or in toothpaste, and while it’s been a main ingredient in the fight against tooth decay, the mechanism behind the mineral’s success remained elusive.

The researchers discovered fluoride helps make teeth a slippery surface, preventing tooth-decaying bacteria from clinging to teeth, reports United Press International. The bacteria can then be easily removed by saliva, drinking water or by brushing teeth.

Saarland University researcher Karin Jacobs said there was much mystery surrounding fluoride's effect on reducing tooth decay, although some effects of the mineral, such as its ability to harden tooth enamel, had been previously identified. Jacobs said fluoride helped harden enamel, while new research further established the compound’s ability to harden an even thinner layer of enamel, notes UPI. By hardening the enamel, which gets worn away by acids found in bacteria, fluoride helps reduce the risk of cavities.

The researchers used artificial teeth to conduct the fluoride experiments, reports UPI. Not all teeth, or mouths, are created equal, and the makeup of the mouth varies from person to person, making the ability to study the effects difficult, notes MyHealthNewsDaily. Fluoride reduces the adhesion force of bacteria, and Jacobs believes the mineral could make teeth enamel more negatively-charged, making the bacteria less likely to attach to the enamel.

Jacobs, speaking to MyHealthNewsDaily, said the research could lead to a better understanding of how fluoride works, such as reducing the strength of bacteria or possibility creating an environment that reduces the growth of bacteria.

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