Understanding Fluoride and Dental Fluorosis

Fluoride is a negatively charged ion of the element fluorine. It’s naturally found in water, food, and soil, and is also artificially synthesized in laboratories for various uses, including water fluoridation. For decades, people have debated the wisdom of treating public water supplies with small amounts of fluoride. On one side of the debate, research has proven that fluoride in small measures promotes healthy mouths by fighting cavity formation. On the other, people believe that fluoridating water supplies is useless and unsafe. Rather than reignite the flames of debate, your Grand Prairie dentist, Dr. Quinn Smith, explains how fluoride helps your teeth and why some people consider it dangerous.

Fluoride’s Benefits to Your Teeth

Tooth decay begins when acids attack tooth enamel, which is a highly mineralized substance that protects the outer surfaces of your teeth. Everything you eat or drink contains elements that oral bacteria also process. When these bacteria synthesize sugars and carbs, the result is lactic acid, which is excreted onto your teeth. Other foods and beverages contain a natural acidity that changes the pH (acid alkali balance) of your mouth to facilitate acid production and damage. The acid dissolves your tooth enamel and siphons minerals from your teeth (demineralization). To strengthen your teeth and reduce the risk of cavity formation, fluoride protects enamel from the demineralization process. If enamel is already damaged by acid erosion, fluoride can accumulate in the demineralized areas and strengthen the outer layer of your teeth through remineralization.

The Risks of Fluorosis

Fluoride’s benefits to dental hygiene were discovered in the early 1900’s, when a dentist in Colorado Springs noted that the townspeople had brown-stained teeth, but very little tooth decay. The resulting research discovered that the discolored but healthy teeth were due to fluoride levels in the water supply. The brown teeth foretold the main drawback of fluoride. If a child is exposed to too much of the mineral during the years when permanent teeth are forming under the gumline, dental fluorosis can affect the tooth enamel’s appearance. These changes can range from barely-noticeable stains to deep discoloration, pits, and grooves. Because fluorosis occurs during permanent tooth formation, it cannot occur once the tooth has already fully developed and erupted.


Dr. Quinn Smith is a well-respected and highly experienced general, restorative, and family dentist in Grand Prairie, TX. He takes a patient-first approach that starts from the moment patients enter our Pecan Tree Dental office, and he offers a three-year guarantee on all dental work that he performs. Whether you and your family are new or returning patients, you can schedule a consultation or your next appointment with Dr. Smith by contacting us at (972) 262-5111.