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When it comes to dental care, one of the most important elements of a person's oral hygiene relates to their daily intake of fluoride. Fluoride is a naturally occurring compound, a derivative of the element fluorine, and can be found in plants and major water supplies. It's also a substance embraced by the medical community for its tooth-strengthening and protecting benefits.

According to the American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA), most communities have a program that adds fluoride to local aquifers or reservoirs. This is done to encourage good oral health, especially for children who may be susceptible to early tooth decay. Additionally, many dental product companies include the compound in toothpastes and mouthwashes, further adding to the benefit.

The ADHA estimates that since fluoride was first introduced following World War II, decay rates have fallen between 20 percent and 50 percent, though development has been uneven as some communities do not treat their water supplies. Currently, 62 percent of Americans drink fluoridated water regularly.

Fluoride can be used to treat or alleviate a number of oral conditions. It is a primary tool when battling periodontal diseases, as fluoride helps rebuild enamel and strengthen gums. Those who have dry mouth disorders, which if left untreated could result in gingivitis or mouth cancer, are also encouraged to use fluoridated products as they can fill in for the lack of saliva.

While the benefits of this compound are numerous, it's important to remember that you should never start dental treatments without the counsel of a professional care professional, like Raleigh dentist Dr. Thomas E. Cooke, D.D.S. That way, you can find out if it is the right route to take as you do your best to keep those pearly whites looking fantastic.

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