Fluoride has been an essential part of dentistry for many decades. It is found naturally in soil, rocks, air, water, plants, and foods. It is also synthetically produced for use in drinking water, toothpaste, mouthwashes and various other products. However, concerns have risen regarding fluoride's effect on health, including problems with bones, teeth, and neurological development. It can be overwhelming to do independent research and decide if fluoride is a good option for you or your family. In this article, we hope to share some myths and facts that will help you determine if fluoride is right for you.
How Fluoride Can Be Beneficial
Teeth are in a constant state of two processes, demineralization and remineralization. When we eat foods high in carbohydrates or sugars, bacteria colonies that live in the mouth will have a feast and then spit out acid onto the teeth as a byproduct. This acid attack will cause mineral loss (demineralization) from the tooth’s outer layer of enamel. The tooth recovers by using minerals derived from foods or water such as fluoride, calcium, and phosphate to redeposit (remineralize) the enamel layer. If the teeth are constantly fighting off acid without enough time or resources to repair the damaged enamel, this can lead to tooth decay. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making the tooth more resistant to demineralization. It can even reverse the early stages of decay. In young children, fluoride can even help strengthen the still-forming adult teeth that have not yet erupted, giving them an early, powerful defense against acids. Fluoride also disrupts acid production in already erupted teeth of both children and adults.
How To Incorporate Fluoride into Dental Health Care Routines
There are a few different ways to incorporate fluoride into your dental health care routine.
· Drink fluoridated water – you can visit the following link and see if the drinking water in your area is fluoridated (https://nccd.cdc.gov/DOH_MWF/Default/Default.aspx)
· Use an over-the-counter or prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste
· Have fluoride applied directly to the teeth at our office
· Take prescription fluoride tablets, usually indicated for ages 6 months to 16 years old in non-fluoridated water communities
At Designer Dental, we encourage our patients to consider a topical application of fluoride at every regular scheduled cleaning or periodontal maintenance visit. We believe it is important for every age group, young or old, to implement fluoride into their dental health care. Everyone can benefit from added fluoride protection, but those who can benefit particularly are people who:
· Follow a diet high in sugars and carbohydrates
· Struggle with at-home dental hygiene (routine brushing and flossing)
· Have had bridges, crowns, braces, and other restorative procedures
· Have a history of tooth decay/cavities
Concerns About Fluoride
As the common saying goes, too much of a good thing can be bad. Fluoride is safe in appropriate doses, but if consumed in excess can lead to side effects such as fluorosis (discoloration of enamel in children,) weakened bones and ligaments, and muscle weakness. The amount of fluoride added to public water supplies are regulated and do not exceed a certain dose. Products applied in-office, such as fluoride varnish, are also safe for routine use, along with over the counter toothpastes and mouth rinses.
One of the main arguments against fluoride in water is that people believe it is unethical for the government to force fluoride on people without giving them a choice. When fluoridation first began, fluoride was not as readily available to the public like it is now. Most health issues that opponents claim to be linked to fluoride are from sources of water with much higher fluoridation levels than what is found in our water systems. A lot of the studies linking fluoride to cancer have been inconclusive and have shown neither an increase nor decrease in risk of diseases such as osteocarcinoma.
Fluoride is approved by the CDC. Although there may be many rumors about the effects of fluoride, all of the common concerns have no real connection. It is also endorsed by more than 100 health organizations including the American Medical Association, World Health Organization, American Dental Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
We respect all of our patient’s concerns and wishes. Dr. Nagao may recommend fluoride treatment at your next visit, but you are free to decline. However, we firmly believe in the benefits of routine fluoride treatment, whether in-office or in supplemental use at home, and we want to ensure that your teeth will last you a lifetime. We recommend it for anything from desensitizing teeth that are sensitive to cold, to application around crowns and bridges, or to children with signs of decalcification or early stages of decay. We hope that our efforts to educate our patients on the use of fluoride in our office have been successful and that we have answered any questions or concerns. Feel free to call or email our office with any additional questions, or simply ask about fluoride treatment at your next visit.