There is a lot of debate surrounding fluoride and its use to promote oral health.
Like most aspects of dental health, there are pros and cons of fluoride use. Some people believe that it is a miracle mineral that helps prevent tooth decay and strengthens teeth. Others believe that it is toxic and can cause all sorts of health problems.
So, what is the truth about fluoride? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this sometimes controversial substance.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a natural element that can be found in water, soil, and rocks. It is also added to many public water supplies as a way to help prevent tooth decay. Typically, the amount of fluoride added to water is very low and is not considered harmful.
Fluoride can also be found in many dental products, such as toothpaste and mouth rinse. When used as directed, these products are safe and effective at preventing tooth decay. Fluoride works by strengthening the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to decay.
Uses of dental fluoride for oral health
Fluoride can be used in two ways to help improve oral health: topical and systemic.
Topical: fluoride toothpaste
Topical fluoride is applied directly to the teeth in the form of gels, varnishes, or toothpaste. This helps to strengthen the enamel and make the teeth more resistant to decay.
Systemic: added to drinking water
Systemic fluoride is ingested and works from the inside out. One of the most common ways this is done is by adding it to public water supplies. This means that everyone who drinks the water ingests a small amount of fluoride. In low amounts, it is safe for human consumption.
The pros and cons of fluoride
There are many studies that have been conducted on the effectiveness of fluoride and the results are overwhelmingly positive. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called fluoridation one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.
Here are some additional pros of fluoride treatments:
-Prevents tooth decay
Fluoride is one of the most powerful minerals to help prevent tooth decay by making the tooth enamel more resistant to those attacking acids. It can also actually reverse very early decay.
Fluoride can strengthen tooth enamel by helping to replace minerals that have been lost due to acid attacks.
-Prevents cavities and tooth loss
Because fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay, it also indirectly prevents cavities and tooth loss. In fact, studies have shown that communities with fluoridated water have up to a 40% reduction in cavities.
Cons of fluoride
Despite all of the positive effects of fluoride, there are some people who believe that it is actually harmful. Here are some of the potential cons of fluoride:
Fluoride is considered a “pre-toxic” substance because it has the ability to damage cells at low doses. However, it would take a very large amount of fluoride to actually cause any serious harm.
-Can cause dental fluorosis
Fluorosis is a condition that can be caused by ingesting excessive fluoride amounts during the years when teeth are developing. It results in white spots or streaks on the teeth. In severe cases, it can lead to pitted and discolored teeth.
-May cause cosmetic damage
While fluorosis is mostly a cosmetic issue, some people believe that it can lead to more serious problems down the road. However, dental issues are much likelier to be caused by decay, thus preventing decay is a higher priority.
How to avoid fluorosis stains and other problems
Dental fluorosis is typically an issue that only occurs in the teeth of young children. Thus, it’s vital that parents of children under the age of 6 supervise tooth-brushing to ensure children use an appropriate amount of toothpaste.
While most tap water is considered fluoridated water, it’s unlikely your child will consume enough to be problematic. Since 1990, Phoenix has maintained fluoride at the 0.7 parts per million level as is recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the EPA. Fluoride is a naturally occurring element in the source water for the city of Phoenix.
Tooth decay is a much greater risk to your child’s teeth and overall health than dental fluorosis, thus fluoridated water and toothpaste should not be cause for concern.
What do dental health experts recommend about fluoride use?
The American Dental Association (ADA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both support the use of fluoride because of its ability to prevent tooth decay.
They recommend that everyone use a fluoride toothpaste and that communities should have fluoridated water supplies.
However, they also recommend that you talk to your dentist if you are concerned about the potential risks of fluoride. They can help you make an informed decision about what is best for your oral health.
In-office fluoride treatments
Most pediatric and adult dentists will offer added fluoride as a dental treatment at the end of a routine check-up and cleaning. This is generally in the form of a varnish or gel that is applied directly to the teeth.
If you are interested in getting an in-office fluoride treatment, talk to your dentist at your next appointment.
Takeaways on the pros and cons of fluoride
Fluoride occurs naturally as a mineral that can be found in fresh water, soil, and rocks. It can also be added to public water supplies and used in dental treatments.
Fluoride has been shown to be effective at preventing tooth decay and cavities. However, some people believe that it is harmful and can cause fluorosis. Realistically, preventable tooth decay is a much more serious public health issue than fluorosis.
If you are concerned about the pros and cons of fluoride use, talk to your dentist. They can help you make an informed decision about what is best for your oral health. The dentists at 19th Ave. Dental Care are extremely experienced and keep up to date on American Dental Association recommendations, so you can feel secure in your superb dental care.