If there’s one solid fact to come away with from this blog, it’s that fluoride prevents cavities. That’s not a theory or someone's best guess. It’s an incontrovertible fact that’s changed the dental health picture in the United States.
Perhaps there’s something about the word “fluoride” that conjures images of artificial chemicals and harmful poisons, ideas that simply don’t hold up to scrutiny. At RR Dentistry in Georgetown, Texas, we know that fluoride is one of the most powerful preventive tools for tooth decay, particularly for children, whose teeth are especially vulnerable.
Let’s debunk the myths surrounding fluoride and its role in caring for your teeth. When you know the facts, you can understand why fluoride is one the most significant public health successes of the 20th century.
Myth: Fluoride is an artificial chemical
Fluoride is the negative ion of the element fluorine. It’s a naturally occurring mineral that can reverse tooth decay in its early stages. Fluoride also remineralizes tooth enamel, giving your teeth a better chance against future decay.
It may be surprising to find that fluoride has always existed in water. It isn’t a random chemical that someone decided to add. Fluoride is also present in foods you eat.
Concentrations of the mineral in regional water sources vary. That’s why fluoride is added to public water supplies — not to introduce a mineral into your body, but to supplement it to helpful levels. Your body needs fluoride in the same way it needs other minerals like calcium, iron, sodium, and zinc.
Myth: Fluoride is toxic
In sufficient quantities, even water is toxic. Toxicity is a characteristic of amount, not of any given substance. The same is true with fluoride.
As it happens, water in North America is naturally low in fluoride, so adding fluoride to drinking water merely brings it up to a level that’s effective for fighting decay. Fluoride toothpaste contains about 1,000 times the level of fluoridated water, and you still won’t be poisoned if you accidentally swallow while brushing.
Myth: Fluoride isn’t safe for babies
Exposure to fluoride as a child improves tooth strength over the course of a lifetime. The American Dental Association declares that it’s safe to mix infant formula with fluoridated water.
Overexposure to fluoride in the US might create a condition called fluorosis. It causes white streaks and spots on teeth, but it doesn’t create pain or interfere with tooth function. Usually, only a dentist discovers signs of fluorosis.
Mild fluorosis is not a health problem and may even be a good sign for dental health. Children over age 8 can’t develop fluorosis.
Myth: Community fluoridation is expensive
Statewide, Texas saves $24 per child in Medicaid expenses because of tooth decay prevented by community fluoridation programs. In most cities, it’s estimated that for every $1 spent on fluoridation programs, a city saves $38 on unneeded treatment costs. Fluoridation is a money-saving proposition, for communities and families, over the long run.
If you still have questions about fluoride and how to use it to best advantage, ask us during your next visit to RR Dentistry. We also provide topical fluoride treatments to help strengthen your teeth and fight tooth decay.
You can reach our office online or by phone. Make an appointment today.