If you’re toothpaste doesn’t contain fluoride, your Aloha family dentist wants you to know that brushing and flossing alone may not be enough to prevent cavities, or at least that’s the results of a recent study.
The fluoride found in most brands of toothpaste is actually what helps to prevent the decay and cavities that can permanently damage your smile. While the act of brushing helps to remove decay causing bacteria and food particles from the surface of your teeth, the habit is far less effective when not backed up by fluoride.
Despite the widespread acceptance of fluoride in most communities and dental practices across the U.S., even members of the oral health profession have been slightly divided about just how important fluoride is to the long-term health of our teeth. For many years, oral health professionals have debated the important of a “clean tooth” versus that of a “sound tooth” when discussing the most effective method for cavity prevention.
The clean tooth camp says that by practicing quality oral hygiene, patients can successfully remove the substances that breakdown enamel from the surface of their teeth. With plaque buildup minimized, patients don’t have to worry about the erosion that allows harmful bacteria to invade the interior of our teeth and cause cavities and disease to take hold.
Others within the industry believe that brushing and flossing alone – no matter how often – cannot successful prevent cavities from developing. To successfully fight against decay, patients must use fluoride as it is the only thing that makes a significant difference in not only eliminating plaque buildup, but in also strengthening tooth enamel.
Cavities begin in the tiny crevices and cracks that develop in the surface of tooth enamel. However, the precise mechanism behind how exactly fluoride helps to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities is not fully understood. While some evidence exists that fluoride may inhibit the enzymes that breakdown tooth enamel, experts believe the mineral works to strengthen the tooth and even potentially reverse the cavity process early on.
The Study of Fluoride Continues
While dentists have been recommending the use of fluoride for decades, researchers at the University of Washington wanted to determine whether an intense oral hygiene routine could produce similar results in the prevention of cavities. As part of their study, researchers examined medical literature published between 1950 and 2017 and discovered three randomized clinical trials that were detailed enough to use and analyze.
Two of the studies were conducted in the U.S. while the other was based in the U.K. None of the studies were funded by any corporate interests. The studies examined included 743 preteens and teens who received follow-up visits for between 2 ½ to 3 years.
Researchers assigned children in the studies to an intense oral hygiene group or to a normal hygiene group it terms of daily brushing and flossing habits. In all three studies, the intense group of kids received supervision of their oral hygiene, with plaque deposits removed while at school, but no fluoride toothpaste was used at the schools.
In the U.K. study, all used toothpaste with fluoride at home. Some of the kids in the U.S. studies used fluoride toothpaste and some did not. While the base of the study wasn’t ideal, the key point for researchers was to compare intense oral hygiene with less intense hygiene. Two of the studies were conducted in communities that did not add fluoride to the public water supply.
What the researchers discovered when looking at all of the data was that no discernable difference was identified between either the intense or normal oral hygiene groups. In other words, it didn’t matter how frequently or thoroughly a participant brushed their teeth. If they did not use fluoride, they had the same risk of developing cavities and decay as those in the normal hygiene group.
This suggests that fluoride plays a pivotal role in helping to prevent tooth decay, according to researchers.
Protecting Your Oral Health
As your Aloha family dentist, Dr. Bronitsky wants all of her patients to enjoy the best oral health possible. To successfully prevent decay, brushing twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride is a must. While baking soda and all-natural brands without fluoride may seem like a tempting option, they don’t offer the same kind of protection.
If you have any questions about the best ways to help protect your oral health, make sure to ask any member of our team during your next visit.