You probably brush your teeth several times each day. If you listen to your dentist, you probably floss daily, too. Is there anything else you need to make sure your teeth are as healthy as they can be?

As a matter of fact, there is! It’s called fluoride. It’s probably already in your toothpaste. It may be in the water that comes out of your tap at home, too.

fluoride comes from fluorine, which is a very common element in the Earth’s crust. fluoride exists naturally in many sources of water. Long ago, scientists discovered that fluoride can help prevent — and sometimes even reverse — tooth decay.

Wonder Friends already know that bacteria in your mouth break down sugar left on your teeth after you eat. As the sugar breaks down, it turns into acid that can damage the outer coating of your teeth — called enamel — and make holes called cavities.

If you don’t brush your teeth regularly, bacteria can build up to form a clear film on your teeth called plaque. Brushing your teeth regularly helps to remove plaque and prevent it from forming.

fluoride also helps to fight against tooth decay. When it comes into contact with your teeth, fluoride prevents the acid produced by bacteria from dissolving the enamel on your teeth. It can also help your teeth to repair themselves by rebuilding enamel.

So how do you get the fluoride your teeth need to stay healthy? Most toothpaste has fluoride added, so you get fluoride if you brush your teeth regularly. Since fluoride occurs naturally in water, your local water supply might also provide a regular source of fluoride.

In some areas, though, not enough fluoride is present in the water supply. If this is the case in your area, your local water supplier may add fluoride to your water supply to make sure your teeth are protected. If your water supply is not fluoridated, you can purchase mouth rinses with fluoride at most stores.

Some people oppose adding fluoride to water supplies. They believe that it isn’t effective in preventing tooth decay. They also think it may be hazardous to your health if you ingest too much fluoride.

Research has shown, though, that fluoride does help prevent and even reverse tooth decay. There is also evidence that fluoride is safe when recommended levels of 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million are observed. Dentists also point to the dramatic reduction in tooth decay in the last 30 years during the time when water fluoridation has become popular.

So how can you make sure you’re getting enough fluoride? Ask your dentist! Dentists can check the health of your teeth and recommend additional fluoride supplements if you live in an area with water that doesn’t contain enough fluoride.

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