Prevention of Caries and Dental Erosion by Fluorides : A Critical Discussion Based on Physico-Chemical Data and Principles

Dental erosion is a common problem in dentistry. It is defined as the loss of tooth mineral by the attack of acids that do not result from caries. From a physico-chemical point of view, the nature of the corroding acids only plays a minor role. A protective effect of fluorides, to prevent caries and dental erosion, is frequently claimed in the literature. The proposed modes of action of fluorides include, for example, the formation of an acid-resistant fluoride-rich surface layer and a fluoride-induced surface hardening of the tooth surface. We performed a comprehensive literature study on the available data on the interaction between fluoride and tooth surfaces (e.g., by toothpastes or mouthwashes). These data are discussed in the light of general chemical considerations on fluoride incorporation and the acid solubility of teeth. The analytical techniques available to address this question are presented and discussed with respect to their capabilities. In summary, the amount of fluoride that is incorporated into teeth is very low (a few µg mm -2), and is unlikely to protect a tooth against an attack by acids, be it from acidic agents (erosion) or from acid-producing cariogenic bacteria.


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