Does fluoride really fight cavities by 'the skin of the teeth'?

In a study that the authors describe as lending credence to the idiom, "by the skin of your teeth," scientists are reporting that the protective shield fluoride forms on teeth is up to 100 times thinner than previously believed. It raises questions about how this renowned cavity-fighter really works and could lead to better ways of protecting teeth from decay, the scientists suggest. Their study appears in ACS's journal Langmuir.

Frank Müller and colleagues point out that tooth decay is a major public health problem worldwide. In the United States alone, consumers spend more than $50 billion each year on the treatment of cavities. The in some toothpaste, mouthwash and municipal drinking water is one of the most effective ways to prevent decay. Scientists long have known that fluoride makes enamel — the hard white substance covering the surface of teeth — more resistant to decay. Some thought that fluoride simply changed the main mineral in enamel, hydroxyapatite, into a more-decay resistant material called fluorapatite.

The new research found that the fluorapatite layer formed in this way is only 6 nanometers thick. It would take almost 10,000 such layers to span the width of a human hair. That's at least 10 times thinner than previous studies indicated. The scientists question whether a layer so thin, which is quickly worn away by ordinary chewing, really can shield from decay, or whether fluoride has some other unrecognized effect on tooth enamel. They are launching a new study in search of an answer.


Explore further

Does fluoride really fight cavities by 'the skin of the teeth?'

More information: "Elemental Depth Profiling of Fluoridated Hydroxyapatite: Saving Your Dentition by the Skin of Your Teeth?" Langmuir.
Citation: Does fluoride really fight cavities by 'the skin of the teeth'? (2011, March 2) retrieved 20 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2011-03-fluoride-cavities-skin-teeth.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Mar 02, 2011
The answer is simple, it doesn't. protect teeth. It was always a lie from the beginning. The NAZIs used fluoride in the camps.to keep prisoners docile. It is a poison, always has been.

Off by a factor of two, sounds like someone fudged the.numbers in the.beginning.

Mar 03, 2011
Reverse propaganda. Interesting. The US Army used "salt peter" Potassium Nitrate to make sure enlistees couldn't get it up. Potassium Nitrate, however, has many other uses; just like fluoride.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more