Fluoride Action Network


The discovery and implementation of fluoride in the prevention of dental caries is often praised as one of the most important achievements in health care. In the early 20th century, it took 30 y to identify fluoride as the cause of enamel mottling but also of reduced caries prevalence in a population drinking water containing fluoride. Similarly, from 1960 to 1990, it took major efforts to unravel the working mode of fluoride in such detail that a rational scheme of caries prevention could be formulated. This article describes the scientific struggle leading to a consensus on the topic. For a historic purpose, the field, the actors, and their main research achievements are described. Ultimately it was generally agreed that the effect of fluoride is primarily topical by fluorides in the oral fluids rather than systemic by incorporation of fluoride in the enamel mineral crystals. Fluoride concentrations, even <1 mg/L, enhance the deposition of calcium phosphates during remineralization of enamel (and dentin). Similarly, such low levels of fluoride are effective in reducing the dissolution of the calcified tissues. This understanding has led to the development of fluoride-containing caries-preventive products that had an undisputed beneficial effect on the levels of dental caries.