Why is Fluoride important?
Ever since we were little, we have been encouraged to choose veggies over candies or sodas, and go to bed only after we have thoroughly brushed our teeth. Parents have always maintained a firm stance on good oral health and the religious avoidance of sweets, the reason being tooth decay. Cavities or dental caries are one of the most widespread chronic dental illnesses of childhood and adulthood affecting the United States.
According to the Global Burden of Disease Study conducted by the FDI World Dental Federation, 3.9 billion people around the world have been affected by tooth decay. That is equivalent to almost half (44%) the entire world’s population! Due to the virtually household nature of tooth decay among people, it has given rise to a thriving market for dental products that guarantee the elimination of tooth decay. The majority of these products have one mere thing in common, fluoride.
What is fluoride and how does it work?
Fluoride is a chemical ion of the naturally-occurring element, fluorine. Detected in forms like sodium fluoride and stannous fluoride, these compounds are what are mostly incorporated in dental products. This mineral is often referred to as nature’s cavity fighter by the American Dental Association (ADA) as it inhibits the formation of cavities in adults and children and essentially strengthens the teeth.
When bacteria in plaque and tartar get accumulated on the teeth surfaces, the enamel of the tooth becomes prone to losing its crystals in a process known as demineralization. Without proper oral prophylaxis, the bacteria begin to eat away at the tooth minerals and initiate the process of tooth decay. Fluoride helps by making the enamel more resistant to the polarizing effects of acid and bacteria attacks and replenishes the tooth with adequate minerals to raise the momentum of the remineralization process, thus keeping away tooth decay and ensuring a healthy oral cavity.
Is fluoride safe and what are some possible risks?
Fluoride is safe and effective when used in appropriate doses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reassures that the safety and health benefits of fluoride use have been well-documented over decades of research. When used in correct amounts (such as those advocated in toothpaste and household tap water, there has been no scientific data or evidence that has linked fluoride to adverse health impacts. However, when taken in high or “toxic” doses, fluoride has been reported to cause a condition known as fluorosis.
Exposure to high concentrations of fluoride can cause dental fluorosis, the affected individuals of which exhibiting tiny white streaks or specks (in some cases, gray discoloration) on the enamel of the tooth. Evidence of dental fluorosis has recovered that it occurs only when children mostly below the age of 6, ingest high amounts of fluoridated toothpaste. It is important to supervise children when brushing to prevent the development of fluorosis.
What are the benefits of fluoride?
- Prevents tooth decay: Fluoride slows down demineralization and enhances remineralization and promotes the prevention of tooth decay and helps keep the oral cavity strong and healthy. It is shown to reduce tooth decay by 20 to 40%.
- Protects all ages against tooth decay: Studies show that the widespread availability of fluoride prevents cavities in adults and children alike.
- Safe and effective: Fluoride is a biocompatible material and does not cause health issues when taken in recommended doses. It is also especially effective in preventing dental issues in communities.
- Cost-effective: The cost of a single dental filling is more than an average lifetime cost per person with access to a fluoridated water supply. Fluoridated products are also cheaper and work effectively in protecting against tooth decay and potential tooth loss.
- It is natural: Since fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral, it appeals to people on a wider scale than would artificially crafted products.
- Reduces hypersensitivity: Fluoride also helps reduce teeth sensitivity resulting from hot, cold, acidic, and sweet foods and beverages.
How can I get fluoride?
- Community water fluoridation
For 75 years now, the United States has been drinking fluoridated water and reaping the benefits of fluoride. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the fluoridation of municipal water has had more than 70 years of meticulous scientific research consistently showing that an optimal level of fluoride in community water is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay.
A Cochrane review published in 2015 discovered that when fluoride was introduced to water, children had a 35% decrease in the cases of decayed teeth. ADA also states that about three-quarters of the public water supply in the US is fluoridated. Fluoride is dispensed to the public through the drinking water supply in an advised dosage of 1 mg/L.
- Fluoridated toothpaste
Most of the commercial brands of toothpaste contain fluoride but there are some that are non-fluoridated. It is important to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance to make sure it contains fluoride. Brush your teeth twice a day for best results.
For children younger than 3 years, begin brushing their teeth as soon as they emerge in the mouth by using a fluoridated toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear.
For children 3 to 6 years of age, use no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.
- Fluoridated mouth rinses
Rinsing your mouth with a fluoridated mouthwash after you brush your teeth can further enhance your teeth’s resiliency against decay. However, children six years or younger should not be given mouthwashes as their swallowing reflexes aren’t fully developed and they may ingest it.
- Other fluoridated dental products
Fluoridated gels are available, that can only be applied by a dental professional. This procedure is done twice a year and will give you adequate protection from cavity-creating bacteria.
Some of the dental floss in the market now contain fluoride. Make sure to floss at least once a day.
- luoride supplements
In cases of non-fluoridated water supply, the people are recommended to take fluoride supplements. These supplements can be obtained only through prescription and can come in tablets, lozenges, or drop forms.
Supplements should only be made available for children six months to 16 years who are living without adequate amounts of fluoride in their drinking water.
Cavities are pervasive especially in young children so it is important to begin developing good oral habits in children as early as possible. Fluoride is crucial to maintain proper oral hygiene and care. There needs to be an intricate balance between proper food indulges and taking care of one’s oral health. Whether it be through drinking water, toothpaste, or supplements, make sure you and your family receive adequate fluoride to meet ADA recommendations. For more information on oral health, contact us at 4Smile.com.