Fluoride is a natural mineral that has tooth saving properties, making it extremely relevant to dentistry. You may have heard your dentist use the term or seen it written on dental products. But how does fluoride actually work?
How does fluoride affect our teeth?
Fluoride helps to create a hard tooth surface. Fluoride from our drinking water, toothpastes and diet, becomes incorporated into the tooth’s surface making it stronger and more resistant to decay and damage caused by acids. When a new tooth erupts in the mouth, it is weaker and more prone to being dissolved by acids. Fluoride is especially beneficial at this time, but also in an ongoing way, to help keep the tooth surface strong.
Additionally, fluoride has antibacterial properties that can further prevent tooth decay.
In fact, fluoride found in tap water has shown to reduce tooth decay by 26-44% in children and 27% in adults.
Where can we find fluoride?
Fluoride is found naturally in some water supplies, and is added to the water supply in many parts of the world due to its long term benefits to teeth. It is also in toothpaste, some mouthwashes and many foods such as spinach, grapes, raisins and potatoes.
Dentists may also apply fluoride gels and varnishes to your teeth. These contain an increased concentration of fluoride for people at a higher risk of tooth decay.
Is fluoride safe?
Research shows that low levels of fluoride in the water has been a great benefit to dental health and to reducing tooth decay globally. Water fluoridation is a safe and cost-effective public health measure, being one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century. It has especially helped those who cannot afford complex dental treatment and has saved many people from the burden of oral disease. Despite many investigations by respected research groups, there is no reliable evidence to suggest that fluoride in our water and dental products, causes health problems such as cancer and kidney disease. Like anything, it can be toxic at high levels, but given that fluoride is only found in low levels in water and supermarket toothpastes, it is very difficult to consume a toxic dose. Nevertheless, if you have any questions or concerns regarding use of fluoride, reach out to your local dentist.
Fluoride in children
Fluoride in our water has no known detrimental effects to children. However, to protect the developing adult teeth in children, it is important to make sure that they don’t consume too much fluoride from their toothpaste, as they may swallow more than they should. Fluorosis is a side effect than may occur in children who ingest too much fluoride. The typical appearance of fluorosis is either a snowflake appearance or a yellow/brown stain with small pits on the surface of the tooth. In order to prevent this from occurring, it is recommended that children below the age of 6 use children’s toothpaste, as this contains a lower concentration of fluoride than in adult toothpaste