Photo Credit: http://www.cawater-info.net/
By Dr. Laura Kearney
Many of our patients have questions and concerns about fluoride since in recent years there have been questions about its purpose and safety.
Rest assured that it is both natural and safe, preventing cavities by protecting the enamel of your teeth. Here we will go over what it is, how it works, and how to get its benefits. Along the way we’ll answer our patients’ most common questions about this helpful mineral.
What is it?
Fluoride is a completely natural mineral found naturally occurring in some foods and all water sources, such as oceans, rivers, and aquifers.
What does it do? How does it work?
Fluoride fortifies your tooth enamel. When the mineral reaches your teeth, it incorporates into the enamel and makes the tooth less susceptible to decay.
This process is why communities that use fluoride in their water experience drastically lower rates of tooth decay and cavities!
How do I get it?
If you live in the US, there is a good chance it is already added to your tap water in the optimal amounts to help prevent tooth decay. In some regions, the tap water has a naturally optimal level of fluoride. Ask your dentist about whether your city’s tap water provides the levels of fluoride you and your family need.
Often general dental check-ups, particularly for children, involve a short treatment of a topical fluoride gel or varnish on the teeth. Adults would also benefit from this treatment.
Additionally, there are fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses that you can purchase. Bear in mind that more is not always better when it comes to fluoride, especially in the case of systemically ingested fluoride (fluoride you take internally by drink, food, or pills). Ask your dentist if you need any additional fluoride products.
Is it safe?
Fluoride has been shown time and time again to be completely safe for consumption – especially at the levels most US communities maintain, which is often lower than levels found naturally in oceans and rivers. Adding it to tap water is considered akin to Vitamin-D fortified milk or bread.
The American Academy of Pediatrics answers your most common fluoride safety questions and concerns through their Campaign for Dental Health.
Do adults need fluoride treatment?
The majority of our adult patients know that children often receive topical fluoride treatment, but actually adults benefit from this treatment as well.
In particular, adults with certain conditions would benefit the most from additional fluoride treatments:
- If you have dry mouth, or take medications that cause dry mouth.
- If your gums have receded or you have periodontal disease.
- You’ve had a recent filling.
- You have a family history of tooth decay.
- You have crowned teeth, bridges, or braces.
- You have or are receiving radiation therapy to your head or neck.
As always, ask your dentist if you might benefit from continued treatment.
We hope that this helps our patients better understand this powerful natural cavity fighter!