Have you ever wondered what it is, how safe it is, and whether or not you should opt to use it in your dental routine? We’ll answer these questions and more so you can decide for yourself!
What is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in many foods and water.
How does Fluoride work?
Fluoride works by stopping or even reversing the tooth decay process. Every day, minerals are added to and lost from a tooth’s enamel layer thanks to plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth (demineralization). When a person eats sugar and other refined carbohydrates, these bacteria produce acid that removes minerals from the surface of the tooth. Fluoride helps to remineralize tooth surfaces and prevents cavities from continuing to form. Too much demineralization without enough remineralization to repair the enamel layer leads to tooth decay.
What are the benefits to Fluoride?
Often called, “nature’s cavity fighter,” Fluoride is proven to help prevent tooth decay by making the tooth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque and sugars in the mouth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fluoride is added to water and toothpaste to help reduce cavities or lessen severe cavities. It also creates less need for fillings and tooth extractions and less pain and suffering associated with tooth decay.
Why is Fluoride added to public water?
Almost all water contains some naturally occurring fluoride, but normally, it doesn’t have enough to actually prevent tooth decay, so many communities choose to add fluoride to the water supply. The goal? To boost fluoride concentration a level beneficial to reduce tooth decay and promote good oral health.
70 years ago, Grand Rapids, Michigan became the first community to add fluoride to its public water supply. Over the past 70 years, studies have shown a significant reduction in cavities in Grand Rapids and every other community where fluoride is a part of the drinking water.
You can see if your water in Door County is fluoridated here.
What is the controversy around Fluoride?
Too much fluoride can actually damage the teeth. Dental fluorosis is a discoloration of teeth caused by too much fluoride ingestion during childhood. Fluorosis stains are generally cloudy white splotches and streaks, but more advanced forms are marked by brown and black stains and enamel erosion.
In addition, too much fluoride can be harmful to your health. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now requires all fluoride toothpaste sold in the U.S. carry a poison warning that instructs users to contact the poison control center if they swallow more than used for brushing.
However, In November 2006, the American Dental Association published information stating that water fluoridation is safe, effective and healthy. The information also said that enamel fluorosis, usually mild and difficult for anyone except a dental health care professional to see, can result from ingesting more than optimal amounts of fluoride in early childhood. It also stated that that it is safe to use fluoridated water to mix infant formula, and the probability of babies developing fluorosis can be reduced by using ready-to-feed infant formula or using water low in fluoride to prepare powdered or liquid concentrate formula.
So, the big question- to use Fluoride or not to use Fluoride?
The American Dental Association recommends that children and adults use fluoride toothpaste displaying the ADA Seal of Acceptance. For children younger than 3 years, caregivers should begin brushing their children’s teeth as soon as they start to appear in the mouth by using water on a toothbrush and begin using toothpaste once the child is able to spit effectively.
At Door County Dental Care, we do use and recommend fluoride toothpaste and professional fluoride treatments, but ultimately, the decision is left to the patient. If you do not want to use fluoridated toothpaste or have professional fluoride treatments, just let us know. And, as always, you can ask your dentist any remaining questions you have about fluoride and your dental health!