You probably know that fluoride is used to improve dental health – that’s why kids often receive fluoride treatments at school and at the dentist, why ADA-approved toothpastes contain it, and it’s even added to municipal tap water. That may really be all you know about it, and you have questions, especially as articles make the rounds online questioning its safety and effectiveness. To answer your questions and help you determine what’s safe and healthy for you and your family, our Cary dentist is sharing a closer look at fluoride.
What is Fluoride?
First, what is fluoride? It’s a naturally occurring mineral that is found in water, soil, rocks, plants, and is also an important building block in our teeth and bones. It’s the 13th-most abundant element in the earth’s crust and because it’s so prevalent in soil and water, it’s also found in every type of vegetation because its absorbed through soil and water.
For people, decades of study show that it strengthens tooth enamel, and drinking water with fluoride, using fluoride in dental care significantly reduces the rate of cavities and decay. In the late 1960s, the mineral was added to toothpaste and communities began treating the water which led to a 68 percent drop in tooth decay among 12-year-old children by the early 1990s.
How Fluoride Works to Make Teeth Healthier
Our tooth enamel is made up of hard minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, and fluoride to create a protective coating around the exterior. Bacteria in your mouth produces acids that continually attack the tooth enamel in a process called demineralization. As the minerals break down, cavities and decay form in the teeth.
Fluoride helps prevent cavities by rebuilding the enamel in the reverse process called remineralization. Exposing your teeth to fluroride through an ADA-approved toothpaste and drinking municipal tap water which has been treated with fluoride will keep your teeth stronger and minimize your risk of cavities and decay.
Are There Risks with Fluoride
Fluoride in toothpaste and added to tap water is generally regarded as safe, and it is proven to protect teeth. However, we understand there are concerns, particularly with it being added to water.
The main concern is for children who are exposed to too much of the mineral can experience enamel discoloration. This tends to happen when children swallow toothpaste with fluoride in it. Otherwise, studies showing risks of treating tap water with the mineral are often inconclusive and did not produce solid findings of harm and the American Dental Association still recommends this practice.
How to Get Enough Fluoride
To help prevent cavities and build up your tooth enamel, make sure you are brushing your teeth twice a day with an ADA-approved toothpaste (in order to be approved for adult usage, it must contain fluoride). Instead of choosing bottled water, it is generally recommended to drink tap water, and you can purchase a filter, such as a Brita® filter to remove any dangers and still receive the benefits.
For children under two, using a fluoridated toothpaste isn’t recommended, instead choosing a baby toothpaste that cleans the teeth without the mineral. As they get older, a small amount of typical toothpaste is fine, and we recommend fluoride treatments at their regular dental visits to add extra protection.
Visit Our Cary Dentists for a Checkup
While fluoride can protect and strengthen your enamel, once a cavity forms, it won’t treat the decay. Schedule a dental checkup with our Cary dentists today to ensure your teeth are clean and healthy. Contact our Holly Springs dental office at 919-600-6262 or our Cary office at 919-467-2203 or fill out the form below to set up an appointment.