Low-levels of fluoride in plaque and saliva and their effects on the demineralisation and remineralisation of enamel; role of fluoride toothpastes

R J M Lynch, R Navada, R Walia
International Dental Journal 2004, 54 (5 Suppl 1): 304-9
To summarise support for current consensus on the likely means by which fluoride toothpastes reduce caries and review some relevant studies of the effect of low levels of fluoride on the demineralisation and remineralisation of enamel. The major anti-caries effect of fluoride toothpastes is thought to result from small but protracted elevations in levels of fluoride in plaque and saliva. Fluoride incorporated into enamel systemically does not reduce enamel solubility sufficiently to exert an anti-caries effect. Fluoride has the potential to exert an anti-caries benefit largely through three mechanisms; inhibition of demineralisation, promotion of remineralisation and interference with bacterial growth and metabolism. However, the low levels of fluoride thought to influence caries are insufficient to have a significant effect via the latter mechanism. Thus reductions in caries resulting from the use of fluoride toothpastes can be linked to modification of the demineralisation/remineralisation balance by direct effects on dental mineral exerted topically by low levels of fluoride. Numerous in vitro studies have shown that low levels of fluoride, typical of those found after many hours in resting plaque and saliva, and resulting from the regular use of fluoride toothpastes, can have a profound effect on enamel demineralisation and remineralisation.

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