You may have noticed that your toothpaste contains an ingredient called fluoride or heard your dentist talk about fluoride during your routine dental check-up. Fluoride is a mineral naturally found in soil, food and water but is more widely known for its role in oral health.
What are the uses of fluoride?
Fluoride is commonly found in many dental hygiene products, such as toothpaste, mouthwash and supplements, because it strengthens the tooth enamel and prevents decay. It is also sometimes added to public drinking water to increase community dental health and prevent disease.
If you go for regular dental check-ups, you will also be familiar with a fluoride treatment that your dentist leaves in your mouth for a minute to strengthen your teeth. You may have a fluoride prescription mouth rinse if you get frequent cavities.
What are the benefits of fluoride?
Fluoride’s primary benefit is that it remineralises teeth, hardening the enamel and preventing decay. Other uses include:
- Preventing the build-up of oral bacteria
- Rebuilds weakened enamel
- Reverses tooth decay
Fluoride is especially useful in children whose teeth are still developing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that tooth decay is one of the most common chronic conditions affecting children. Incorporating a fluoride dental product such as toothpaste or mouthwash and drinking fluoridated water can help prevent tooth decay in children.
Are there any side effects?
Although fluoride is naturally occurring, it can cause some adverse reactions if consumed in high quantities. There are two main side effects that can occur.
Consuming high levels of fluoride over a long period can cause your bones to become stiff and painful, and long-term exposure leads to the calcification of ligaments. Although rare, this typically results from water that has been contaminated with too much fluoride.
Dental fluorosis causes white spots on your teeth from too much fluoride exposure. This is more common in children whose teeth are still developing under their gums. Ensure that you and your child are not swallowing too much toothpaste or mouthwash to prevent dental fluorosis.
Fluoride: Myth vs Fact
Despite numerous studies and information on the effectiveness and safety of fluoride, there is still plenty of misinformation surrounding this substance. And as it’s a substance that we often ingest and use in our everyday lives, it’s essential to remain educated on the products we consume. These are a few top myths and their countering facts surrounding fluoride.
Myth: Drinking fluoridated water will cause fluorosis.
Fact: Fluorosis occurs when someone consumes very high amounts of fluoride. The level of fluoride in fluoridated water is not high enough to cause this.
Myth: Fluoride is used as a medication.
Fact: Fluoride is not a medication but a mineral or nutrient that naturally occurs in water and food. We use just the right amount of fluoride to harden our enamel, and fluoridated water helps to prevent tooth decay without having any adverse effects.
Myth: Fluoride is toxic.
Fact: Fluorine, from which fluoride is derived, is considered hazardous waste by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States. However, fluoride is not entirely made up of fluorine and is not toxic in low and manageable amounts.
Myth: Fluoride is not safe for children.
Fact: Similarly to adults, fluoride is completely safe for children in moderate amounts. Children are especially susceptible to tooth decay, and fluoridated water and products help maintain their teeth health.
Myth: Fluoride raises the risk for autism.
Fact: No research or study has confirmed that fluoride or fluoridated water increases the risk for autism.
Fluoride is an essential mineral that we use daily to enhance the health of our teeth and although rare instances of harmful side effects can occur, it’s important to note the benefits. Contact us today to set up an appointment.