Fluoride tends to be a hotly debated topic. Those in favor of fluoride in water supplies have stated that it is effective for stopping tooth decay, lowering the risk for cavities, and strengthening enamel. Those against fluoride in water supplies claim that it leads to lower IQs, a myriad of health issues, and weakened teeth. We have gathered information from both sides to see if fluoride is truly good or bad.
What is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in the Earth’s crust and can be found in water supplies and some foods. In the 1930s, researchers found that people who grew up drinking fluoridated water had two-thirds fewer cavities than people who did not have fluoridated water. Since then, studies have consistently shown that community water supplies that contain fluoride decrease the chances of tooth decay.
How Does Fluoride Work?
Fluoride works in a few ways to prevent cavities. First, it helps to harden enamel on baby and adult teeth before and after they emerge. Second, fluoride works during the demineralization and remineralization processes that occur naturally in your mouth. After you eat, your saliva contains acids that cause demineralization under the tooth’s surface, dissolving the calcium and phosphorous. The fluoride in your mouth replenishes the calcium and phosphorous that keeps your teeth hard. The minerals that are deposited when fluoride is present are harder than they would be otherwise. This helps strengthen your teeth and lessen the effects of the acidic foods for the next time you eat.
Benefits of Fluoride
There are endless benefits to having fluoridated water. It prevents tooth decay and protects people of all ages from cavities. It is estimated that 164 million work hours are lost each year due to dental-related illness. Not only does it help you stay out of the dentist office, it saves money. The average lifetime cost per person to fluoridate the water supply is less than the cost of a single dental filling. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), water fluoridation saved $39 billion in dental care costs over the course of 10 years.
Fluoride is approved by the CDC. Although there may be many rumors about the effects of fluoride, all of the common concerns have no real connection. Fluoride does not cause Alzheimer’s, cancer, Down syndrome, heart disease, or a lower IQ. It is also endorsed by more than 100 health organizations including the American Medical Association, World Health Organization, American Dental Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. It is already a naturally occurring mineral that exists in virtually all water supplies. Water fluoridation was recognized by the CDC as one of the 20th century’s top 10 greatest public health achievements.
Cons of Fluoride
As the common saying goes, too much of a good thing can be bad. Fluoride is safe in appropriate doses but if children overuse fluoride it can lead to discolored enamel. This condition only really occurs when children swallow fluoride toothpaste. It is important to supervise them while brushing to ensure spitting along the way. All cases of dental fluorosis in the United States are mild and do not cause pain or effect the health or function of the teeth.
One of the main arguments against fluoride in water is that people believe it is unethical for the government to force fluoride on people without giving them a choice. When fluoridation began, fluoride was not as readily available in toothpaste like it is now.
Most health issues that opponents claim to be linked to fluoride are from sources of water with much higher fluoridation levels than what is found in our water systems. Many anti-fluoride studies were not designed properly and gathered unreliable data. Studies that indicated a link between fluoride and lower IQs were not conducted properly and did not take all other factors into account.
After reviewing the facts, you can see that fluoride does provide a lot of dental benefits. Individuals can avoid fluoridated water if they feel very passionately about the subject, however fluoride does not have any negative impacts on overall health. It helps millions of children maintain good oral health and avoid unnecessary tooth decay early in life.
Contact Hamby Family Dental Center in Fuquay-Varina
Are you still unsure about the use of fluoride? Contact your Fuquay-Varina dentists, Hamby Family Dental Center by calling (919) 552-2431, by filling out our online form below, or by scheduling your appointment online today.