Dr Neil Pande

Kathmandu:

We have been hearing about fluoride toothpaste for quite sometime now — sometimes through advertisements claiming their products with fluoride, sometimes through write-ups and most of the times from our own dentists recommending us to use toothpaste with fluoride. So, what is fluoride and how does it help our teeth?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring element found in rocks, soil and the sea. It is also present in animals and plants It has been proven to help in reduction of one of the worlds most common diseases, dental caries or cavities. In the developed western world, fluoride has helped a great deal in caries reduction through the use of fluoridated water. If used in right amount, it has also been proven to be safe through years of studies and research.

It acts in two ways. When in contact with the tooth structure in the form of toothpaste or food containing fluoride, it encourages the mineralisation of enamel crystals helping the tooth to be more resistant to micro-organism attacks. It also helps in fighting against the micro-organisms and helps in reducing its number. It also discourages acid formation, the main cause for cavities. Secondly, if in contact with the tooth during its formation in childhood, it can act by formation of enamel, which is stronger and more resistant to dental caries.

In the Nepali context, unfortunately, we do not have the provision for fluoridated water and we also lack naturally occurring fluoride in water. The only solution is the use of fluoridated toothpaste, which is not affordable to more than 75 per cent of our population. Therefore, we have to think of alternative means of providing fluoride in water or food. Under such circumstances one option can be salt fluoridation in the right amount.