|Tooth enamel is hard. It
consists of many closely-packed rods made of minerals. When you eat, acid
forms on the outside of the tooth and seeps into the enamel's rods. This
demineralization process can produce a weak spot in the tooth's
surface. If unchecked, the enamel can decay and create a cavity.
Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by slowing the breakdown of enamel
and speeding up the natural remineralization process. These microscopic
views of the tooth's chewing surface show how fluoride works:
tooth enamel rods before acid's onslaught.
|Enamel rods demineralized,
or broken down, by
rods remineralized or rebuilt, by fluoride and the minerals in
Common sources of fluoride are fluoridated drinking water, toothpaste
and mouth rinse. Inform your dentist if your drinking water is not fluoridated.
High concentration fluoride gels, mouth rinses, drops and tablets may
be recommended by your dentist.
||Your dentist may recommend at home
fluoride treatments to reverse the decay process. If the weak spot
is left unchecked, a cavity may form, necessitating a filling. If
decay is allowed to spread, it may penetrate the root and enter the pulp
(nerve) chamber, causing an abscess and requiring root canal treatment.
PROGRESSION OF TOOTH DECAY
|Tooth decay often begins
on biting surfaces,
between the teeth, and on exposed roots.
the cavity becomes larger.
|Decay spreads beneath the
enamel and can
destroy the tooth structure
enters and infects the pulp and an abscess may occur.
Use of fluoridated toothpaste can help prevent tooth decay at its early
Be sure to follow the special home care instructions provided by your