More than 70 years of scientific research has consistently shown that an optimal level of fluoride in community water is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay by at least 25% in both children and adults. Simply by drinking water, Americans can benefit from fluoride’s cavity protection whether they are at home, work or school.
For decades, it’s been the dental credo that fluoride is an essential part of preventing cavities and building stronger teeth. But when it comes to our overall health, its status remains less clear. Water fluoridation remains a heated topic of debate.
While medical establishments urge people to educate themselves about the benefits of fluoride, others are more wary. Some vocal groups argue that even if fluoride has helpful properties, the dangers of it are too risky for a beautiful smile. We’ll take a closer look at the controversy surrounding this substance.
So what is fluoride?
Believe it or not, it’s a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in the food we eat and the water we drink. However, the natural fluoride level for these things can vary greatly, and thus why people are debating whether adding fluoride to drinking water is safe.
There’s solid evidence that shows fluoride is beneficial for your teeth. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that fluoridated water reduces tooth decay over a person’s lifetime by 25 percent. A study in the Journal of Dental Research also supports these claims. The researchers analyzed data from almost 3800 adults who participated in the 2004 to 2006 Australian National Survey of Adult Oral Health. Based on their results, they found subjects who lived in communities with fluoridated water had significantly less tooth decay – up to 30 percent less – when compared to subjects who lived in unfluoridated communities.
But that’s not the whole story. While fluoride helps fight tooth decay, ingesting extreme amounts of it can be dangerous. Young children can also develop fluoride toxicity by ingesting large amounts of fluoride. In fact, getting too much fluoride can increase the risk of fluorosis – a condition that stains the teeth.
But don’t be alarmed – you would have to drink 5,000 to 10,000 glasses of fluoridated water in one sitting to reach unsafe levels. Basically any substance can be considered toxic if over consumed. A great example is alcohol. In small quantities, it’s been shown to have health benefits, like reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. But if you’re taking 10 shots of vodka in 30 minutes, you’re going to find its pretty lethal stuff.
Like any substance, it’s the dose that makes the difference. Fluoride in small amounts has been shown to be effective in preventing cavities and tooth decay. People of all ages can benefit their oral health by exposing their gums and teeth to fluoride. Fluoride helps to rebuild your tooth enamel which can be worn-down from acidic bacteria by the foods we eat. Fluoride also makes it more difficult for plaque to stick to your teeth.
In our area of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho we do not have fluoride added to our water supply. We recommend that patients that are children take oral fluoride tablets and that all of our patients do in-office fluoride treatments.
In the end, you shouldn’t be worried about fluoride. In fact, according to the CDC, the fluoridation of drinking water is one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. However you get your fluoride…your teeth will thank you for it.
Source: www.ada.org/fluoride, http://lorddufferindental.com