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Community Dent Oral Epidemiol. 1999 Feb;27(1):62-71.

A re-examination of the pre-eruptive and post-eruptive mechanism of the anti-caries effects of fluoride: is there any anti-caries benefit from swallowing fluoride?

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Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


The belief that fluoridated water reduces caries incidence by half stems from years of fluoridation studies where the caries rates of people in various fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities were compared. By their nature, the water fluoridation trials were not able to distinguish between the topical effects of the fluoride in the water and the systemic effects of the fluoride that is inevitably swallowed and incorporated into developing teeth. Some attempts have been made to estimate the contribution of systemic fluoride to the control of dental caries but researchers are discovering that the topical effects of fluoride are likely to mask any benefits that ingesting fluoride might have. In this updated review of the pre-eruptive vs. post-eruptive benefits of fluoride in the prevention of dental caries, a re-examination of the literature, which is often cited to support the notion that swallowing fluoride, either in water or in pill form, was done in recognition of the mounting evidence for the topical mechanism as being the primary mechanism for the prevention of dental caries. Maximum benefits from exposing newly erupted teeth to topical fluoride in the oral cavity may have been seriously under-estimated. This has obvious implications for the use of systemic fluorides to prevent dental caries and forces everyone working in the field to examine more closely the risks and benefits of fluoride in all its delivery forms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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