Fluoride and its uses has always been a controversial topic in the health community. Is it safe? Is it toxic? Do we really need it? Is it safe for our children?
These are all questions we should be asking ourselves but among most dental professionals the answer is clear… Fluoride is key to maintaining healthy tooth structure and we have the research to support it.
But, it is important to be informed and make the educated decision for yourself. The aim of this entry is to help you make that decision with the most up to date information available.
The first thing we need to do is understand what Fluoride is and where it comes from before we can talk about its uses and effects on the body.
First off, Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral compound found in water and soil. It is also present in foods and beverages at varying concentrations.
The most common place that fluoride occurs naturally is water. Even un treated spring water will contain some Fluoride. What you must take into consideration for your personal health is how much fluoride is naturally occurring in the specific site that you are receiving drinking water from. Most cities have a controlled amount of Fluoride in the water that has been researched to provide the most beneficial effect on our bodies without causing negative side effects.
After water, other common products that contain Fluoride as an additive are at home dental related products such as tooth pastes and mouth rinses.
Now that you know what Fluoride is, where it comes from and what products you can find it in, we can talk about what it actually does and why it is so beneficial to the health of your teeth.
Our teeth are made up of an extremely hard surface called Enamel. This structure is made up of tiny crystals called hydroxyapatite. These crystals are what break down and start decaying when a cavity is forming.
This is where fluoride becomes such a powerful tool. It combines with these broken down crystals of enamel to form a new structure that is stronger and more resistant to decay than the original structure itself! This helps arrest cavity progression if there is a spot of demineralization and helps to prevent healthy enamel from breaking down as well. This ability to rebuild tooth structure is what makes Fluoride the most useful tool in dentistry to prevent and slow down cavity progression.
Fluoride is a very powerful tool but you also need to know how much of it is healthy and when negative side effects can occur.
In general, Fluoridated tooth paste should be used every day for continuous prevention of tooth decay. The reason using Fluoride daily in tooth paste is safe is because it is in a much lower dose than professionally applied products and its meant to only be used topically (not to be swallowed). As soon as children reach an age where they can confidently spit out food or water, they should also be using Fluoridated toothpaste to prevent early childhood cavities. You should always monitor your child when using Fluoridated tooth paste so they do not swallow it. Fluoride is an irritant to our stomach lining so, consuming concentrated amounts can cause stomach upset and sometimes vomiting. It can also cause fluorosis in the teeth, which means little white spots may occur on the tips of the teeth in mild cases and brown staining In more severe cases.
If Fluoride is an irritant and can cause discolorations of our teeth, why is it in the water?
Well systemically, low concentrations of Fluoride is very beneficial to the development of new teeth being formed. It helps create a stronger more resistant structure as well as adding to the concentrations to our saliva which will also topically help existing tooth structure. There has been extensive research done in order to find the optimal amount of fluoride we can ingest without causing negative effects (roughly 0.7 parts per million of fluoride in water) and this is the amount maintained in city water lines.
If you ever have questions or concerns about Fluoride you should contact your dental care professional for a consultation. Every patient is different and has unique needs in the case of how much Fluoride they need. Those who are at a higher risk of tooth decay may require more frequent topical applications of Fluoride whereas some are just fine with using a regularly Fluoridated tooth paste every day. Don’t hesitate to ask questions! Being informed is important for your health and safety!
The Westboro Family Dental Team