In general, most people associate the ninth element on the periodic table, fluorine, with dentistry. However, this is only one side of this versatile chemical. In its pure form, it is actually a poisonous gas, unfit for consumption by humans. Many derivatives of the element are harmless or even beneficial to the body. In fact, medicines containing fluorine are extremely common.
It is estimated that nearly 20% of all pharmaceuticals contain some sort of fluorine. This is because the chemical is highly versatile. Slight changes in atomic structure can drastically change the nature of this element. For medicines, the intended result of a change in structure is an organofluorine compound. Those who work to develop pharmaceuticals are constantly working to create new varieties of these substances and place them in drugs.
There are a number of common Fluorine-containing compounds that are frequently used in medical technology. Treatments that contain this element are used in dentistry, anesthesiology, hormone therapy, oncology, and psychology.
Sodium fluoride is made using the byproducts of the synthesis of chemical fertilizers and other products for agriculture. The manufacturing process of these products gives off hydrofluoric acid which is neutralized and becomes NaF. Most uses of this compound involve cleaning or organic synthesis.
The use of sodium fluoride in medicine is mostly in the realm of dentistry. It is found in many tooth pastes and other anti-tooth decay products. At one time, NaF was added to most drinking water in order to improve oral health in the general population. It has generally been replaced by another fluorine compound, in part, because the practice is very controversial.
Sodium fluoride is ideal for oral health purposes because it creates a byproduct called fluoroapatite. This compound is a part of tooth enamel, and, when coupled with the compound’s ability to clean most solid surfaces, helps to maintain healthy teeth.
The general anesthesia used to put patients to sleep during surgery is usually made up of highly flammable gases. Fluorine is so popular in the field of medical science because it can be used in a variety of situations. The properties of this element make it easy to synthesize with other chemicals. It is known for its stability and reactivity. Many of its best attributes can be applied to other substances by joining them together.
Fluorocarbons are particularly stable and have a high polarity. This makes them ideal for use with the volatile chemicals used in anesthesia. They significantly reduce the flammability of the gasses used in the operating room, and therefore, make the process safer.
The products of fluorine are often used to treat clinical depression and are classified as SSRIs. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors change the chemical environment in the brain. Various chemicals released and detected by neurotransmitters send and receive chemical messages that determine mood. Serotonin is one of the chemical messengers that evoke a feeling of wellness. Since depression is likely the result of a problem in the detection of serotonin, various drugs are …