Many common myths about fluoride exist enough to make some people hesitant regarding this mineral that in reality provides us with many health benefits. The unfounded faulty information regarding fluoride that is circulated has caused concern regarding the effectiveness and safety of using fluoride. It is important to be informed accurately regarding the fluoride myths facts, so that you can enjoy its health benefits without concern.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral present in many natural sources, such as in public water supplies, black tea and coffee. It is the ionic form of the element fluorine and is created when salts from this element combine with minerals in soil or rocks.
Studies and research have shown that fluoride can strengthen bone density to a degree and for protecting teeth from decay. The World Health Organisation and Public Health England are among a group of recognised health bodies that endorse fluoride as beneficially towards improving oral and dental health.
What is fluoride used for?
Predominantly fluoride is used to prevent tooth decay, to protect from tooth plaque and mild forms of gum disease. In some countries such as the United States small amounts of fluoride is added to community water in a process known as water fluoridation.
What are the benefits of fluoride in dental use?
Fluoride is extremely beneficial in dental use which is why fluoride toothpaste is so popular and essential. It helps rebuild or remineralise weakened tooth enamel and reverse very early signs of tooth decay. It prevents the growth of harmful oral bacteria while helping to slow down the loss of minerals from the tooth enamel. Basically fluoride has three main roles in oral care:
- Inhibition of demineralisation
- Enhancement of remineralisation
- Inhibition of bacterial activity in dental plaque
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the average number of missing or decaying teeth in children of about 12 years of age in the United States dropped by 68% from the late 1960s to the early 1990s, thanks to the addition of fluoride to toothpastes and other dental products and to the continuation and expansion of fluoridated water in communities.
Fluoride: Myths and Facts
There are so many misconceptions surrounding fluoride that some people miss out on the immense dental health benefits it provides. You owe it to yourself to do proper research and determine the difference between myths and facts. A fact that everyone should keep in mind is that fluoride is good for our teeth, good for our oral health.
- “Fluoride is toxic damaging to your health”
This is myth 1 and unfortunately the most common myth is the fluoride is damaging to the health such as by increasing the risk of fluorosis or being linked to cancer. However, multiple studies conducted around the world have not found any connections proving as such. Fluoride will only be toxic when taken in excess as is the case with most things. It all depends on the dose you take because really if you drink water in excess it too can become toxic for your body. The amount of fluoride we are generally exposed to in our lives, is not toxic at all. Our actual intake is minimal, just enough to provide benefits for our dental health.
- “Children should not use toothpaste with fluoride”
The amount of toothpaste we use is perfect to maintain good oral health and has absolutely no adverse effects. Fluoride toothpaste is prescribed by dentists and dental experts, especially is areas and countries where water fluoridation is not done. The benefits of using fluoride toothpaste are immense which is why it should form an integral part of any dental routine. Children are encouraged to use fluoride toothpaste with current guidelines stating that children under three should use an amount equal in size to a grain of rice. This ensures their teeth receive the necessary protection but not enough that it could be harmful to them if swallowed.
- “Fluoride whitens teeth”
This is another myth because fluoride does not whiten teeth. It helps protect and strengthen teeth but has no properties to whiten them. Fluoride can also help decrease tooth sensitivity. When consumed in excessive doses it can cause barely visible white spots to appear, but these are very easy to treat.
- “Fluoride is only found in toothpaste”
This too is a myth because fluoride is a mineral found naturally in practically all natural water sources. It can even be found in some varieties of bottled water. Likewise it can be found to an extent in shellfish, meat, cheese, black tea and coffee to name a few natural sources.
- “Excess fluoride can cause fluorosis”
You need very high fluoride concentrations or doses to lead to fluorosis, which is in itself a very mild condition. It does not cause pain, nor does it affect your health or the function of your teeth. The levels of fluoride found in waterways in the UK and fluoride toothpastes is not significant enough to cause fluorosis. In the United States as of 2015 the maximum amount of fluoride added to the water is 0.7 parts per million (ppm). In the UK water fluoridation was first established in Birmingham in 1964.
Fluoridated water and fluoride toothpastes serve two completely different purposes, just like supplements you ingest and those we apply. Fluoride has different benefits when ingested in water and when used topically. Fluoride in water is systemic fluoride and once in our bloodstream and saliva work to protect our teeth incorporating with our adult teeth. The fluoride in toothpastes and rinses fights against plaque and remineralises the enamel. Working together the two varieties of fluoride help optimise our oral health.
Fluoride has proved over the years its immense benefits towards our oral and dental health and should definitely be incorporated in our daily routines. Despite much misinformation regarding this mineral studies done worldwide over the years have not found any adverse effects with regards to use for dental care. As it helps strengthen the all important tooth enamel it is vital that we use fluoride based dental products to keep our teeth strong and healthy. Good oral health is a gift and you deserve the tooth strengthening benefits fluoride provides.