As far as I understand, fluoride helps in hardening the enamel of our teeth by replacing the calcium element in hydroxyapatite to convert it in the stronger fluorapatite, like explained here. Wether that's worth other potential risks of using fluor is debatable, but let's keep that aside. I'm curious if it is still beneficial to keep using fluorised toothpaste if you already did so for like 10 years. I suppose all hydroxyapatite is long converted into fluorapatite already after so much brushing. Why would it still be recommendable to keep using it?


Fluoride can be absorbed into the teeth and form fluoroapatite only in children up to 6-8 years of age (WebMD).

Later, fluoride from toothpaste may still be helpful, because it stimulates the incorporation of calcium and phosphorus into the enamel that has been demineralized (PubMed Central, 2006). So, fluoride stimulates remineralization and thus slows down the development of caries; it doesn't mean that it cures caries.

Recent advancements in fluoride: A systematic review (PubMed Central, 2015)

A summary of RCTs on fluoride concentration in toothpastes showed a positive dose response: Pastes with 1000–1500 ppm F showed 23% caries reduction compared to fluoride-free placebo; this value increased to 36% for pastes with around 2500 ppm F. For pastes having below 1000 ppm F, no significant difference was found with placebo, probably due to the small number of studies.

^^ The above means, there was less caries after fluoridated paste use, and not that the established caries was cured.

| improve this answer | |
  • Interesting, I didn't know enamel could regenerate. I though once you lost some of it, it'd be lost forever. – Bart Feb 9 '18 at 17:17
  • Only very small lesions may be healed. Obvious caries is still considered permanent. – Jan Feb 9 '18 at 17:59
  • 2
    Every meal and contact with acids demineralises teeth, not only caries. Lesions in this sense would include the invisible day to day occurences. So that's a constant process. It seems a common misconception that remineralisation might refill cavities, regardless of size. That's also a prob with your excerpt: incidence of caries is reduced, not existing reversed? Can you clarify that? – LаngLаngС Feb 9 '18 at 19:39
  • @LangLangC Sometimes pain in your teeth comes and goes, that is much too subjective of an observation to say cavities can be healed, but it might do so to some height? Or is that nonsense? – Bart Feb 9 '18 at 23:12
  • 2
    @Bart Misunderstanding? I meant remin is going on, always, in enamel and dentin. Extraordinarily important, but that is also microscopic and below. And also important for sensitive teeth. But people often mistake remin for filling large macro-structural holes (often from caries), which is (currently?) impossible with tools at our disposal. – LаngLаngС Feb 9 '18 at 23:17

The main protective effect of fluoride is outside the tooth, not inside.

Small amounts of fluoride in solution around the tooth inhibit demineralization more effectively than incorporated fluoride and have a much greater caries-protective potential than a large proportion of fluorapatite in enamel mineral. Schweiz Monatsschr Zahnmed 122: 1030–1036 (2012)

For example, even an incredible amount of fluoride has limited protective effect. In a classic study, Ogaard compared the resistance of fluoroapatite (shark enamel) and hydroxyapatite (human enamel) against a high caries challenge in a human in vivo model. Two samples of shark enamel and human enamel were each placed in removable appliances in six children and carried for 1 month and a plaque retentive device was placed over each enamel sample. The results showed that the mean total mineral loss (delta Z) was 1680 vol% micron in human enamel and 965 vol% micron in shark enamel. The corresponding mean values for lesion depth were 90 micron and 36 micron, respectively. It was concluded that even shark enamel containing 30,000 ppm F has a limited resistance against caries attacks.

In a later review, the same author concludes that

The fluoride concentration in the apatitic structure of enamel does not have as significant an effect on reducing caries as a continuous presence of fluoride in the plaque liquid.

Hence, to receive the protective effect of the fluoride, we require to keep it near the tooth surface all time.

| improve this answer | |
  • hence, sharks doesn't have cavities not because the fluoride on her/his teeth, instead because they don't eat or drink sugar. – sue Mar 14 '18 at 12:23
  • Well, isn't the fact that sea water would dilute any acid concentrations a larger factor to consider here than "sugar intake of sharks"? Or was that studied somewhere as well? – LаngLаngС Mar 14 '18 at 12:52
  • @sergiouribe, you can include studies about the relationship between dental fluorosis and caries; fluorosis is associated with either decreased or increased risk of caries. – Jan Mar 14 '18 at 14:22
  • So, if i understand correctly, it's more beneficial to have the environment around your teeth fluorised, rather than only your enamel? In an exagerated comparison; you'd be better off having a fluor releasing pill in your mouth all day, than replacing your enamel with literal shark enamel? – Bart Mar 14 '18 at 18:50
  • @Bart that's correct, you (and also any shark) should better use a fluoridated toothpaste rather than change your human teeth for shark teeth. – sue Mar 14 '18 at 19:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.