What is fluoride, and why is it good for my teeth?
Fluoride is a compound of the element fluorine, which is found universally throughout nature in water, soil, air, and in most foods. The mineral is easily absorbed into tooth enamel, especially in the developing teeth of children. Once teeth form, it makes the entire tooth structure more resistant to decay and promotes remineralization, which aids in repairing early decay before the damage is even visible.
“Systemic” fluoride is that which is in food or drink. It’s typically added to public and private water supplies, soft drinks and teas, and is also available in dietary supplement form. Once absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, it spreads throughout the entire body. However, bones and hard tissues like teeth utilize most of the fluoride we take in
What’s a “topical” fluoride, and when should I use it?
“Topical” fluoride goes directly onto the teeth, particularly in kinds of toothpaste and mouth rinses. Dentists recommend brushing with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day or after every meal, combined with a regimen of flossing and regular dental checkups.
During a cleaning appointment, we may choose to apply topical fluorides (such as gels or varnishes) for about four minutes. For patients with a high risk of dental caries, we may also prescribe a gel for daily home use. Different varieties are used with or without a mouth tray for up to six weeks.
Why do we fluoridate water?
Fluoridated water protects against cavities and root caries by helping repair early damage. (Called remineralization.) This intake can also prevent the progressive erosion of adult root surfaces caused by gum recession. Thanks to these benefits, mass water fluoridation is the most efficient and cost-effective dental caries prevention measure available.
What about those “theories?”
After countless studies, tests, and scientific reviews conducted since the 1930s, fluoride used in reasonable amounts is not harmful to humans.
Can I get too much fluoride?
Drinking excessively fluoridated water can cause dental fluorosis (a harmless cosmetic discoloring or mottling of the enamel). It’s visible by chalky white specks and lines or pitted and brown stains on developing teeth.
Avoid swallowing toothpaste, mouth rinses, or other topical supplements, and take care to only use the proper dosage.
If you are concerned about the fluoride levels in your drinking water, call the local public water department. If the source is a private well, request a fluoride content analysis. This is usually available via a water sample through your local or county health department.