January 14, 2013– Dentists and scientists have long known that fluoride helps prevents cavities, but until recently scientist did not know HOW fluoride prevented cavities.

But new research sheds light on the decades old mystery. Research now shows that the addition to fluoride in toothpaste, water, rinses, and dentist applied topical fluoride, reduces the “adhesion of oral bacteria on hydroxyapatite by fluoride treatment” according to the American Chemical Society Journal.

Dentists long believed that fluoride works by hardening the enamel. Research has concluded that fluoride does indeed do this. But the amount that is hardened is smaller than originally believed. So something else must be at work.

The latest research shows that fluoride makes it harder for bacteria to adhere to the surface of a tooth. Different forms of Staph bacteria are the earliest colonizers of a cavity. Research is showing that fluoride makes it more difficult for the receptors of Staph to bind to teeth. Thus slowing or stopping the formation of cavities.

If the bacteria has a hard time sticking to the tooth, then the chance of saliva washing the bacteria away and never forming a cavity increases. This research is still on going and needs further confirmation, but the results are encouraging.