Lately, there has been a lot of confusion and speculation about fluoride use and health safety. In this tip of the month, we hope to clear up some of your confusion and questions.
Unfortunately, cavities are the most common long-term health problem that affects children. When used properly fluoride is a very effective preventive measure. It is an important part of your child’s dental health because it helps return minerals to the teeth in order to keep them strong and healthy. Fluoride helps prevent your teeth from breaking down by affecting the ability of bacteria in your mouth from breaking down sugar to produce acid. This acid then breaks down teeth by removing minerals from the tooth. With enough minerals lost, cavities form. Fluoride helps attract minerals to the teeth.
One of the most common arguments is that fluoride shouldn’t be in our drinking water. The fact is that fluoride actually occurs naturally in water, though rarely at the optimal level to protect teeth. The issue is the amount of fluoride in water. There are proven benefits for public health that come from having the optimal level of fluoride in water. The two beneficial effects of fluoridated water is that it helps prevent tooth decay and contributes to healthy bones. The amount of fluoride put into the water differs from community to community. Tests are run to determine the appropriate amount to add that will provide the benefit of reducing cavities while avoiding developing fluorosis. For example, in colder areas more fluoride is added to the water as its inhabitants are likely to drink less water. But in hotter areas, less fluoride is added to the water as its inhabitants are likely to drink more water because of the heat.
This often leads to people wondering why they need fluoride treatments for their children at the dentist when they are already consuming it at home. The reason is that the fluoride that is being consumed in the drinking water is a systemic fluoride which means it’s helping to strengthen the child’s developing teeth. The fluoride that we apply every 6 months is a topical fluoride which is applied to help protect the enamel on your child’s teeth that are already in their mouth to prevent cavities. Continued use of fluoride throughout the years prevents teeth from breaking down and allows for teeth to absorb minerals that continue to keep them strong and healthy.
Many people believe that fluoridation is a ‘freedom of choice’ issue, and they should be able to choose whether or not it’s in their water. Fluoridation is a public health measure that benefits everyone. It exists naturally in virtually all water supplies, so it isn’t a question of choosing, but a question of assuring that people receive the optimal amount to prevent tooth decay. Maintaining an optimal amount of fluoride in water is based on the principle that decisions about public health should be based on what is healthy for the entire community and on what is backed by scientific evidence. Studies have proven that in areas where fluoridation is rare more fillings, root canals and extractions are needed.
Many parents often ask if they should be giving their child fluoride supplements. The answer to that is if you have well water or water that is not fluoridated in the community that you live in, then yes. If you do have fluoridated water in your community and that is the water you use in your home then no. Also, using a fluoridated toothpaste is very important to use even on young children. Children should be getting less than a pea sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste on their toothbrush so if they do swallow a little bit, it won’t harm them.
Of course, just like anything else too much of a good thing can have negative side effects. So it is important that if you have fluoridated tap water, and use fluoridated toothpaste at home that you aren’t giving your child extra fluoride supplements. If you have any further questions about fluoride benefits or any concerns or questions regarding fluoride use please feel free to contact our office. The CDG team cares about everyone’s opinion and feelings on this matter, but want to ensure that every one of our patients know we recommend a fluoride treatment and are more than happy to educate parents and patients on ADA and CDC standards.