What do your teeth and moon rocks have in common?

Apatite is a group of phosphate minerals, usually referring to hydroxylapatitefluorapatite and chlorapatite found in the human body in the form of tooth enamel and bone mineral, and even in Moon rocks brought back to Earth by Apollo astronauts. 

Fluorapatite (or fluoroapatite) is more resistant to acid attack than is hydroxyapatite and in the mid-20th century, it was discovered that communities whose water supply naturally contained fluorine had lower rates of dental caries. Fluoridated water allows exchange in the teeth of fluoride ions for hydroxyl groups in apatite. Similarly, toothpaste typically contains a source of fluoride anions (e.g. sodium fluoride, sodium monofluorophosphate).

How Does Fluoride Strengthen Your Teeth?

Enamel, the outer layer of the crown of a tooth, is made of closely packed mineral crystals. Every day, minerals are lost and gained from inside the enamel crystals. Losing minerals is called demineralization. Gaining them back is called remineralization.

When it reaches your teeth, fluoride is absorbed into the enamel. It helps to repair the enamel by replenishing the lost calcium and phosphorous to keep your teeth hard. This process is caused remineralization. When fluoride is present during remineralization, the minerals deposited into the tooth enamel help strengthen your teeth and prevent dissolution during the next demineralization phase. Thus, fluoride helps stop the decay process and prevent tooth decay.

All children should use fluoridated toothpaste. If your children are younger than 6, be cautious about how they use it, however. Young children are more likely to swallow toothpaste after brushing instead of spitting it out. Use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste when they brush. Encourage them to spit out as much as possible. Avoid flavored toothpastes that might encourage swallowing.

So, since we cannot get moon rocks to suck on for our dose of fluoride, visit Corne Smith Dental practice in Newlands, Cape Town for a variety of toothpastes for adults and kids that can help.

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