For decades, fluoride has been held in high regard by the dental community as an important mineral that strengthens tooth enamel and thereby helps to prevent decay of tooth structures.
Water fluoridation is endorsed by nearly every major health and safety-related organization in the world. Communities make it a common practice to "fluoridate" their drinking supplies in order for the general population to benefit from this inexpensive and effective preventative treatment. According to the American Dental Association, more than 144 million U.S. residents in more than 10,000 communities drink fluoridated water.
How does fluoride make my teeth stronger?
Fluoride works to make enamel more resistant to acids that cause cavities. These acids are found in the foods we eat and also come from bacteria that is found in our mouths. When teeth are exposed to acid over a period of time, cavities can form. Fluoride helps make the enamel less prone to acid demineralizaion and can even help remineralize and harden weaken enamel.
Fluride works in two ways. The fluoride that is found in toothpastes, mouth rinses, and gels acts directly on the enamel to remineralize the surface enamel and makes the enamel stronger. People of all ages benefit from this type of fluoride application. Fluoride that is found in our water supply and that is in prescription fluoride tablets is used to help during the development of the teeth. This systemic fluoride application mainly benefits children by creating stronger enamel before the tooth even erupts into the mouth.
Bottled water, home water treatment systems, and fluoride exposure
Communities started adding fluoride to their water supplies decades ago to help the general population gain the benefits of fluoride treatments. Though most communities continue to add fluoride to the water, many people are drinking bottled water or using filtration systems that may decrease or eliminate fluoride. Be sure to check you drinking water and filtration system to see if fluoride is being removed. If you have any concerns about this, please contact our office.
ADA statement on FDA toothpaste warning labels
The American Dental Association`s Council on Scientific Affairs believes that one part of the warning now required on fluoride toothpastes by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could unnecessarily frighten parents and children, and that the label greatly overstates any demonstrated or potential danger posed by fluoride toothpastes. The label language, "If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional help or contact a poison control center immediately," is now required on all fluoride toothpastes. But the ADA, in a letter sent to the FDA, pointed out that a child could not absorb enough fluoride from toothpaste to cause a serious problem and that the excellent safety record on fluoride toothpaste argues against any unnecessary regulation.
What is enamel fluorosis and how can it be avoid?
Providing systemic fluoride to children is important in preventing future tooth decay. However, too much fluoride exposure during the years of tooth development can result in a condition call enamel fluorosis that creates defects in the enamel structure and causes brown spots and pitting in the tooth surface. Too much fluoride exposure can occur if natural water supplies like well water contains too much fluoride or if fluoride supplements are prescribed at too high of doses. If your family is drinking well water, it is important to have the water tested for fluoride content to make sure your children are not receiving too much fluoride.