Fluoride, which exists naturally in water sources, is derived from fluorine, a common element in the Earth’s crust. It is well known that fluoride helps prevent and even reverse the early stages of tooth decay.
Tooth decay happens when plaque — that sticky film of bacteria that builds up on teeth — breaks down sugars in food. The bacteria produce damaging acids that dissolve the hard enamel surfaces of teeth.
If the damage is not stopped or treated, the bacteria can penetrate through the enamel and cause tooth decay (also called cavities or caries). Cavities weaken teeth and can lead to pain, tooth loss, or even widespread infection in the most severe cases.
Fluoride combats tooth decay in two ways:
Fluoride prevents the acid produced by the bacteria in plaque from dissolving, or demineralizing, tooth enamel, the hard and shiny substance that protects the teeth. Fluoride also allows teeth damaged by acid to repair, or remineralize, themselves. Fluoride cannot repair cavities, but it can reverse low levels of tooth decay and thus prevent new cavities from forming.