Dental caries is a type of tooth decay in which the tooth enamel is dissolved and is mainly caused by infectious agents like Streptococcus mutants and Lactobacillus. These bacteria can penetrate the dentin or tooth pulp tissue causing necrosis, infection and ultimately tooth loss. If left untreated, the excruciating oral pain can also affect eating, speech, swallowing and breathing.
Dental caries was once considered as a major public health concern. With the discovery of the water fluoridation technique, the incidence of dental caries in the society especially among children diminished to a great extent. An appropriate amount of fluoride is added to drinking water which inhibits or reverses the progression of dental caries and causes remineralisation of the tooth enamel.
But fluoride is only beneficial in reducing the incidence of dental caries when present in appropriate quantities. Recent studies by Central London researchers have shown that excess amounts of fluoride are now present in our waters leading to fluorosis, teeth mottling and dental caries. Excess intake of fluoride during the development of tooth enamel in children causes hypomineralisation or enamel fluorosis. This leads to the formation of brittle teeth in children making them at increased risk for developing dental caries. Excess amounts of fluoride are not only present in the drinking water but also in most toothpastes and mouth rinses.
The misconception in society that excessive amounts of fluoride are beneficial to the teeth promotes the purchase of toothpastes and mouth washes that advertise higher levels of fluoride. But remember, fluoride is protective and good for our teeth only in the right amount. An increased amount does more harm than good especially in our little children.