Dental caries is endemic globally (Beaglehole et al. 2009). The prevalence of dental caries in the general population is significant throughout the world and particularly affects people in regions where consumption of refined sugar is high. Figure 4 shows caries prevalence for the 6–19 year-old age group in a number of countries (Beaglehole 2009).
Cariogenic bacteria in supragingival dental plaque, predominantly Mutans streptococci and Lactobacilli, metabolize fermentable carbohydrates to produce acids that cause demineralization of the dental hard tissues. Without adequate remineralization the caries balance is disturbed, resulting in net mineral loss that will eventually lead to cavitation. Fluoride is the most frequently used chemotherapeutic agent to combat dental caries.
Twice daily use of fluoride dentifrices is well-established as being effective in reducing caries and reversing early carious lesions (Marinho et al. 2003) Interventions that increase the amount of fluoride available to alter the plaque/tooth surface interaction are the most successful for caries prevention:
Higher concentrations of fluoride generally offer greater protection:
Figure 4. Prevalence of dental caries
Figure 5. Mechanism of action in fluoride
The caries demineralization-remineralization balance described above is valid for all fluoride compounds which allow dissociation of the fluoride ion in the oral cavity. Stabilized stannous fluoride may offer additional anti-caries benefits through the anti-bacterial actions of stannous which reduce the production of plaque acids (Kasturi et al. 1995).