We’ve all heard of fluoride. Likely you’ve heard people debating over it; it’s a hot button issue among many. Fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral that is found not only in the teeth, but in water, soil, plants, rocks and even air, has a host of health and dental benefits, but due to misinformation and misinformation about the mineral, many people worry that it’s more detrimental than it is helpful.
The truth is that fluoride is a naturally occuring substance that is very beneficial to the teeth and most of the claims about it are not rooted in scientific fact.
Let’s find out more:
Fluoride is known to strengthen the enamel (the outer layer) of the teeth and make them less susceptible to damage, cavities, and decay. It is a safeguard that helps prevent further damage to the teeth, including gum disease, decay and cavities. Because of this, fluoride is usually included in dental products such as toothpaste, mouthwash (both over the counter and prescription), supplements, and more. For a short time in the 1970s and 1980s, students were given fluoride rinses in school. While you can buy dental products without fluoride, most larger brands do include this mineral in the ingredient list. Most dentist’s offices offer fluoride treatments as part of a routine cleaning/exam and young patients are given fluoride treatments as a matter of course unless you opt out. Many cities and towns in the United States and elsewhere add fluoride to the water supply, in a process called water fluoridation, to help facilitate healthy, strong teeth among youngsters who might not otherwise have access to fluoride. After the push for fluoridated water in the late 1960s, the number of cavities in children saw a sharp decrease, a decrease which lasted through several decades.
In addition to strengthening and rebuilding enamel, fluoride can also benefit your teeth by slowing down the loss of minerals in your tooth enamel as you age; reverse tooth decay in the early stages, prevent harmful oral bacteria growth from eating too much sugar, which breaks down enamel; freshen your breath, and more.
Fluoride is also used for other, non-dental purposes, such as in certain cleaning solutions and formulas, as an ingredient in some pesticides, as an ingredient in steel and aluminum products and is even used in medical technology such as PET scans. Because of these other uses of this helpful mineral, many people assume that it is toxic or harmful to the body. The fact is, fluoride is used in many non-dental related products because of its strengthening properties, but fluoride on its own is not inherently toxic or harmful to the body in any way.
As you can see, fluoride has many uses, almost all of which are helpful in preventing tooth decay and enamel decomposition. It is an easy and beneficial way to strengthen and safeguard your teeth. Studies have definitively shown that fluoride is extremely helpful in preventing cavities, especially in young people. It is an easy addition to dental products that can prevent and reverse damage to the teeth, strengthen enamel and keep cavities at bay.
While fluoride does have some toxicity and can be detrimental in very large doses, it is generally very safe to use. Theories that the mineral is toxic and causes neurological and/or health problems in young children are not currently supported by any scientific evidence.
That doesn’t mean it’s without some risks, though they are quite small. When taken in too-large doses, fluoride can cause fluorosis, which presents as white spots on the teeth. This happens when a child whose teeth are still developing ingest too much fluoride; this only happens if the child in question swallows the fluoride (for instance, swallowing toothpaste or mouthwash instead of spitting it out). While this poses no health risk, the white spots can be unsightly, so if you have a child under eight, whose teeth are still developing, it’s best to supervise brushing/mouthwash time to ensure they do not ingest their dental hygiene products. Speak to your child’s pediatric dentist if this is a concern.
Skeletal fluorosis can occur from large amounts of ingested fluoride, usually from a water supply. This is very rare, as most counties have strict health guidelines as to the amount of fluoride that can be added to the water for safety reasons. Therefore skeletal fluorosis, which leads to calcified bones, is extremely rare. You are very unlikely to develop this condition unless you eat huge quantities of toothpaste or are exposed to extremely large amounts of fluoride in drinking water.
Beyond fluorosis, there is no other evidence that fluoride causes other health problems, deficiencies or behavioral issues. All other claims to the contrary have not been supported by any evidence or scientific backing and much of it is speculation. Dentists have weighed in heavily on this issue, arguing that fluoride is a necessary and extremely beneficial part of oral health, and should not be seen as something scary. It is naturally occurring within the body and poses no real harm when used responsibly as part of a dental care routine. There is much information readily available on this, in the form of scientific papers and journals.
Simply put, fluoride has far more health benefits than risks. It gives you stronger teeth, prevents and in some cases reverses tooth decay, inhibits the growth of oral bacteria, and keeps your mouth and teeth overall in much better shape. It can help prevent cavities and reverse tooth decay, when taken as part of an oral health routine. The vast majority of reputable dentists agree that fluoride is a very important and necessary part of dental and oral care. However, as with any health treatment, whether you take fluoride is your choice.
If you have questions about fluoride, would like to get a list of recommended dental products with fluoride or schedule a fluoride treatment, contact your dentist today to find out more information about this naturally occurring, beneficial mineral.