Fluoride is a wonder substance for your teeth. It’s alarming, then, to note that some might lack it, especially children. Not all US states, for instance, have fluoridated water sources. And while most toothpaste contains fluoride, you can never be too sure.
But what is it about fluoride that makes it so essential to teeth?
What is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral part of sodium fluoride or sodium compound which is abundant here on Earth. Its significance, however, was not found until the 1930s. A study found that when people consume fluoride water, tooth cavities and gum problems decrease.
Since then, it has been endorsed by the American Medical Association and World Health Organization that fluoridated water can reduce tooth decay. Thus, most toothpastes contain fluoride, and dentists directly deliver fluoride treatments to the teeth at dental appointments.
Aside from your fluoride-containing toothpaste, there are other topical applications like fluoride varnishes, gels and mouth rinses to protect your teeth.
Different forms of fluoride therapy include:
- Toothpaste: Most toothpaste brands have fluoride. They contain about 0.22% fluoride to help prevent mouth cavity.
- Water fluoridation: The United States water supply adds fluoride to its public water supply to reduce tooth decay risks. The Government assures that the fluoride in water is safe and in accordance with each state’s regulations.
- Gel: Those who have high tooth decay risks or those undergoing head and neck radiations benefit from fluoride gel. Additionally, fluoride gels are suggested if you have a decreased salivary flow. Fluoride gels have the same consistency as toothpaste, and some are available for home applications. To know more about these products, don’t hesitate to consult your dentist.
- Mouthwash: Mouthwash contains fluoride to help strengthen your teeth and reduce risks of tooth decay. It also has antibacterial components to fight off bacteria due to plaque formation. Additionally, it can reduce bad mouth odor.
- Varnish: This is applied directly to your teeth using a brush, and it sets after a few seconds. Like other fluoride-containing products, it aims to protect your teeth from bacteria that may cause serious gum problems.
Fluoride fortifies your teeth against decay
In her article for Parents, Rebecca Felsenthal notes that tooth decay is a lot more common in young children “than any other chronic illness,” such as “asthma and diabetes.” Many factors might contribute to this, such as the amount of sugar in the standard American diet and the increasing ubiquity of fluoride-less bottled water. If the child’s parents are prone to cavities, they might pass on oral bacteria to their kids by sharing eating implements or toothbrushes.
To understand why these conditions are ripe for tooth decay, it’s essential to know how a cavity forms. Cavities, in a nutshell, are portions of the tooth that collapsed. These areas usually lack calcium due to bacteria eating away at it. The more harmful bacteria you have in your mouth, the more prone you are to cavities. These germs are also sustained by sugar, which is why individuals with high-sugar diets are more susceptible to tooth decay than others.
A regular intake of fluoride, then, can help mitigate these incidences by strengthening your teeth. When you intake fluoride either from food sources or toothbrushing, it returns the minerals your teeth lost, reversing the decaying process. More than that, however, it also binds to other minerals in your teeth—such as phosphate and calcium—making it harder for bacteria to penetrate the teeth.
How can I know if my child has enough fluoride?
Since we know what fluoride can do for you, the question is this: how can you tell if your child is taking the right amount of fluoride?
Answer? You can’t. You can do the closest thing to ensure that they have enough of it by monitoring what they intake—do they drink enough fluoridated water? Are they getting enough of it in their meals? Does their toothpaste have fluoride? Just make sure you don’t overdo it. An excess intake of fluoride could cause fluorosis, which over time could impact your bones.
But while you might not be able to pinpoint whether your child has enough fluoride, your dentist certainly can. Since fluoride affects the teeth, babies don’t need to make the appointment until they’re six months old. During that time, your pediatric dentist will tell whether your little one might need to up their fluoride intake, often by the plaque building up their gums. During the visit, your dentist could also prescribe a plan of action to prevent further complications. In the meantime, good old dental hygiene is enough to tame the tides ‘til then.
Is Fluoride Safe?
Several reports have been circulated all through the globe about the safety and efficiency of fluoride. In fact, after long years of careful research, the scientific conclusion is that properly-fluoridated water and fluoride-based kinds of toothpaste, milk, and salt are of superior benefit to one’s dental health.
Fluoride helps minimize dental caries and generally causes no dangerous effects on a person’s overall wellness. Research has not unveiled proof that fluoride added to water causes no detrimental adverse effects if used correctly.
On the other hand, those opposed to fluoridation claim that fluoride added to water is damaging. However, in the correct amounts and used adequately, fluoride is 100% safe.
However, there are cases where fluoride may be potentially damaging:
Fluorosis is caused by excessive and prolonged intake of fluorine. In turn, it produces bone and dental anomalies. Also, keep in mind the below:
- There may be an acute poisoning by accidental ingestion of insecticides or rodenticides with fluoride salts that can cause death.
- Excess fluoride intake is toxic and can cause fluorosis as it weakens the enamel (causing more caries). It also weakens our bones (decalcification and osteoporosis).
- Too much fluoride can discolor or stain your teeth long-term.
- Especially between 1-and-a-half and 3-years-old, children do not fully understand the act of brushing teeth. Thus, usually the child swallows toothpaste, increasing their maximum daily dose of fluoride. For that reason, introduce fluoride toothpaste later for your child.
The optimal levels of fluoride in water is 0.7 parts per million (1 ppm). This is equivalent to 0.7 milligrams of fluoride in 1 liter of water. This measure is controversial, and it is not accepted in all countries. Try not to exceed the recommended amount.
Benefits of Fluoride
Fluoride is beneficial for all age groups as it…
- Increases the resistance of enamel to dental caries
- Assists young, developing secondary teeth
- Minimize the amount of acid the bacteria present on the teeth produce
- Promotes “remineralization” and facilitates entry into the structure of calcium and phosphate ions. This is because the fluoride holds a negative charge and attracts calcium and phosphate with a positive direction.
- It has antibacterial properties that attack the bacteria colonizing on the tooth surface.
- Fluoride helps where there is a deficit in calcium and Vitamin D. It helps treat osteoporosis and solidifies bones.
- In case a person requires special oral care, fluoride treatments are even more valuable. Any person who wears braces must also receive fluoride treatments regularly. In turn, this can impede bacteria from getting stuck beneath the wires.
How to Get Fluoride
The good news is that most public water contains fluoride. To figure out the amount of fluoride present in your water, ask the local water supplier.
Another simple way to get fluoride is through the use of fluoride-based toothpaste and fluoride mouthwash.
Likewise, consider purchasing fluoride gel and use this at home. Apply the fluoride gel directly to the teeth. Allow this to sit for a few minutes, and afterward, thoroughly rinse with water. Do not eat or drink for approximately 30 minutes after the application of the fluoride gel.
10 Fluoride Facts
You know what fluoride is, but how much do you know about this mineral?
FACT #1: Fluoride naturally occurs in water. When at the optimal level, it will protect and whiten the teeth.
The recommended amount of fluoride in water is 0.7 milligrams per liter.
FACT #2: Fluoridation can be practiced by anyone.
The United States was the first country to fluoridate its water. They consider it one of the “top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century.” Few other countries do the same. However, other developed countries instead of add fluoride to products such as salt and milk.
FACT #3: The reduction in tooth decay is not primarily dependent on water fluoridation.
In the United States, the decrease in the number of people who suffer from tooth decay is often attributed to water fluoridation. However, the same decline has happened in several other countries that do not fluoridate their water.
FACT #4: Many tissues in the body, not just the teeth, are affected by fluoride.
It also affects your bones, thyroid gland, pineal gland, blood sugar levels, and your brain. Too much fluoride is associated with several health conditions, such as:
- Brain damage
- Bone disorders
- Thyroid disease
- Low intelligence/IQ
- Hyperactivity or lethargy
- Muscle disorders
- Bone cancer
- Increased lead absorption
- Thyroid disease arthritis
- Bone fractures
- Lowered thyroid function
- Disrupted immune system
- Damaged sperm or increased infertility
- Increased tumor and cancer rate
FACT #5: Water fluoridation is a natural series of chemical operations.
Fluorosilicic acid, the compound used to add fluoride to water in the U.S., is not what most people consider natural. It’s a biting acid that is caught in devices that control air pollution. Fluorosilicic acid is being captured because the gases are very harmful air pollutants, and it can cause severe environmental harm. This is risky and could even lead to cancer.
FACT #6: Fluoride exposure is essential for infants and children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
When used to prevent and control cavities, it can be very safe and effective. Just be cautious about overexposure, which can cause dental fluorosis. After all, infants and children are at high risk for brain damage due to fluoride toxicity.
FACT #7: The FDA did not approve fluoride supplements.
Most vitamin supplements can be bought over the counter, but this is not the same case with fluoride supplements (for prevention of tooth decay). A doctor’s prescription is necessary for fluoride supplements.
FACT #8: Fluoride is the only medicine added to public water.
Fluoride is only considered an approved medicine by FDA standards when it’s added to water to prevent tooth decay.
FACT #9: Teeth do not benefit as much when one swallows fluoride.
Research shows that fluoride is most beneficial when it is in direct contact with teeth. Direct ingestion through drinking fluoride water or taking fluoride pills is still beneficial, but not in the same ways.
FACT #10: Fluoride mostly damages underdeveloped countries.
This happens because underdeveloped countries have less dental practitioners who can give them optimal dental care. They only rely on fluoride found in water.
Although fluoride is the main component that improves our dental health, it’s still important to understand everything about it to avoid its harmful effects.