You’ve probably heard of water fluoridation, the process of adding small amounts of fluoride to community water supplies. But why? What is fluoride, and why is it good for our teeth?
You also may have heard claims that fluoride is dangerous. Hundreds of studies have been done on the safety of adding small volumes of fluoride to water supplies, and the vast majority have come back in favor of the practice. Exposure to high amounts of fluoride may pose certain health risks, which are discussed below.
So, what is fluoride? Why do many communities add fluoride to their water? How does fluoride benefit our health? Keep reading to find out!
Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in plants, water, soil, rocks, and even in the air. It can also be produced synthetically and added to toothpaste, mouthwash, cleaning agents, supplements, pesticides, and more.
In dentistry, fluoride is used to strengthen enamel, the protective outer layer of your teeth. Strong enamel prevents cavities and tooth decay, which is a prevalent problem, especially among children.
Enamel is vital for preventing cavities and tooth decay because it protects your teeth from bacteria that can lead to tooth decay. Enamel can be weakened by the acids found in sugars and carbs. Fluoride prevents tooth decay by rebuilding, or remineralizing, degraded tooth enamel. It can also prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
The addition of small amounts of fluoride to water allows our teeth to be constantly exposed to fluoride. When you drink water, add it to your cooking, or use it to brush your teeth, the fluoride in the water combines with your saliva to coat your teeth. Add on any other products containing fluoride, such as toothpaste or your mouthwash, and your teeth will be exposed to fluoride nearly 24/7.
After introducing fluoridated water and adding it to products like toothpaste in the 1960s, the CDC found that tooth decay in twelve-year-olds decreased by 68 percent. The CDC calls the fluoridation of water one of the “Ten Great Public Health Achievements” of the twentieth century.
If your water supply is not fluoridated and you’d like to treat your teeth with fluoride, you can do so at your next dentist appointment. If you ask your dentist, he or she can apply fluoride directly to your teeth in the form of a liquid, foam, or gel. Also, be sure to ask your dentist about fluoride supplements.
Two potential risks of exposure to large amounts of fluoride include:
If you’re concerned about these potential side effects of fluoride exposure, talk to your dentist or local government.
Have more questions about fluoride? Schedule an examination with Dr. Liberman today! Proactive dental care is the best defense against cavities, tooth decay, gum disease, and other threats to your dental and overall health. To schedule an examination or learn more, contact us today!
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