Though fluoride has been a common water and toothpaste additive in the United States since the 1940s, there is still some misconception surrounding whether or not the fluoride is harmful or helpful to humans. Here’s what we know about fluoride, its effectiveness, and whether it’s safe.
Fluoride: What Is It and What Does It Do?
Fluoride is a mineral that is naturally present in many of the Earth’s elements as well as in the human body, most of which is stored in the teeth and bones. Fluoride research began in 1901 by a dental school graduate named Frederick McKay. His findings coupled with over 70 years of research have since proven fluoride has the ability to help strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay. There are two types of fluoride- Systemic and Topical. Systemic refers to the fluoride that is ingested such as consuming fluoridated water. Topical refers to fluoride that is applied to your teeth by either brushing with fluoride toothpaste or having a fluoride treatment at the dentist.
Where Can You Find It?
There are many sources of fluoride but is most commonly present in the following places:
- Groundwater – Most groundwater around the world contains a very small amount of natural fluoride. Some locations may have very high levels, which can cause problems over time.
- Supplements – In the form of liquid drops of tablets, fluoride supplements are especially useful for babies and children that live in a location without fluoridated water.
- Public Water Supplies – The UK, Australia, and the US all add certain amounts of fluoride to the public water supplies so the population can benefit from the oral protection fluoride gives.
- Food – Tea leaves, grape juice, shrimp, coffee and raisins are among the top fluoride-containing food and drinks.
- Oral Care Products – Fluoride is often added to mouthwashes, rinses, and other dental products to strengthen tooth enamel.
Even before teeth break through the gums, fluoride ingested from foods, beverages and dietary supplements help harden teeth and resist tooth decay. So why do we hear discussions about whether or not to use fluoride?
There are potential disadvantages with the presence of too much fluoride.
- Dental Fluorosis – This occurs when there is too much fluoride present in children, usually under two years old. It is harmless but can cause white spots to show up on the teeth.
- Skeletal Fluorosis – Similar to dental fluorosis, the skeletal type occurs when there is too much fluoride building up, this time in the bones of the body instead of just the mouth. It can happen over the course of many years and leads to joint pain and stiffness.
The Bottom Line
Given the evidence from substantial amounts of research and case studies as well as years of practical implementation, most dental professionals agree that a moderate amount of fluoride is a necessity for good oral health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named community water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. For questions regarding the amount of fluoride, you and your children should be consuming, be sure to consult with your dentist or visit our website www.LindnerDental.com.