Fluoride and your dental health
Most major Australian cities have had fluoridated water for 20 to 30 years. Brisbane has only had fluoridated water since 2009. One of the most beneficial discoveries in recent years is that fluoride encourages the enamel of the tooth to repair itself, providing the decay process has not gone too far.
- In the first 10 years after its introduction in Australia, fluoridated water has resulted in decay rates dropping up to 60 per cent.
- Approximately two out of every three Australians now drink fluoridated water.
- 30 years ago:
- The average teenager had 18 teeth either needing fillings, already filled, or extracted due to decay.
- Two out of every three older adults had lost all their teeth and wore dentures.
- Many 16 year-olds had to have all their teeth out due to decay.
- Today, tooth extraction due to decay is a rarity and most teenagers have only four or five teeth filled or affected by decay (many with no decay at all) and the damage is often slight.
- Due to fluoride, today’s young people may never need a filling.
How does fluoride prevent decay?
- It interferes with the bacteria in plaque which break down sweet foods and starches to form acids which attack the teeth.
- It alters the structure of tooth enamel to make it more resistant to acid attack.
- It helps to regenerate and repair enamel which has started to decay.
- Ask your dentist if you need fluoride solution applied to prevent decay starting. This concentrated fluoride stops the early stages of decay getting worse.
- The first signs of tooth decay are white areas appearing, often on the neck of the tooth and between the teeth. Ask your dentist to check these areas and advise you how to prevent cavities developing.
- Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day, especially after meals, is most important in preventing dental decay.