Fluoride: Everything You Need To Know | Pros, Cons, Facts & Myths

Fluoride Pros and Cons

There are so many questions about fluoride from patients and from many people asking the difference between fluoride and non-fluoride toothpaste, and questions about its safety.

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In this article, Dr. Oh and Dr. Estafan will help you understand what fluoride is, its importance, what are the fluoride pros and cons and all the different myths about fluoride.

What is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a natural mineral that is present in very small amounts in many foods and also in water. It can be found in soil, rocks, and it is the 13th most essential element in earth’s crust (Fluorine).

So, is fluoride safe or not?

We mentioned earlier that fluoride is a natural mineral. So does this mean fluoride is safe? Actually, it can be poisonous if ingested, especially in huge quantities.

You have probably notice that the fluoride toothpaste containers have a warning label, stating to contact the poison control if a large amount is ingested. But applying directly to teeth, externally – fluoride can provide various benefits to teeth.

Fluoride Pros & Cons: How does fluoride prevent tooth decay?

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Every day, there is a battle between the plaque–sticky, colorless film of bacteria and the minerals in our saliva plus the fluoride from toothpaste, water and the like. Fluoride helps us win the battle against these cavity-causing bacteria coming from the food we eat.

Fluoride protects our teeth in two ways:

Topical fluoride. When we say topical it means relating or applied directly to a part of the body. This is the fluoride in our toothpaste, gels, and rinses. These are placed directly on the teeth.

Systemic fluoride. Systemic fluoride gets ingested to the body. It can be ingested through fluoridated water, fluoride containing food or prescription supplements from dentists.  It gets incorporated to developing tooth buds in children, therefore, the teeth can be more resistant to tooth decay.

Topical and systemic fluoride can both help prevent cavities by strengthening the enamel in our teeth. Fluoride can greatly help reverse early signs of tooth decay.

The importance of fluoride

People often talk about fluoride is important for the dental health of everyone including the young children. That’s because fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making teeth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque. It does this by remineralizing the tooth’s top layer, or enamel. Each day, minerals are lost from enamel by acid. Fluoride found in foods and water redeposits the enamel.

The argument against fluoride

The U.S. Public Health Service endorsed water fluoridation in 1950- and there were few pieces of evidence of its safety. Now, decades later and after most of the countries around the world have rejected the practice, more than 70 percent of Americans, as well as the other 200 million people worldwide, are now drinking fluoridated water.

Debunking the Myths

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To Fluoride or Not To Fluoride?

Now that we know what fluoride is– let’s debunk these myths. What goes into that toothpaste is a little bit more controversial.

Myth: “Fluoride in our drinking water is not natural.”

Fact: Fluoride is a natural mineral that is present in many foods and also in waters, even the water in our oceans. Water fluoridation is simply the adaptation of fluoride that happens naturally to a safe and recommended level for preventing tooth decay.

Water fluoridation is the balanced addition of fluoride to a public water supply to reduce tooth decay. Fluoridated water contains fluoride at a level that is safe and effective for preventing cavities; this can occur naturally or by adding fluoride.

Myth: Fluoride in drinking water is not needed. We have fluoride in our toothpaste

Fact: According to American Dental Association, fluoride toothpaste can protect our teeth from cavities and the fluoridated water is the extended protection of everyone’s teeth from decay.

There are cases in which the fluoride in our toothpaste is not enough. This is why some dentists and pediatricians would prescribe fluoride supplements especially to children living in non-fluoridated places.

Fluoridation offers an easy, painful-free, inexpensive preventive strategy to prevent cavities and strengthen dental health that everyone can benefit from by simply drinking their water.

Myth: Studies show that fluoride can lower your children’s IQ

Fact: There are already questions from different countries around the world about the potential effects of high levels of fluoride on the intelligence and behavior of one’s person.

However, these studies were poorly designed, and have gathered unreliable data and were

not peer-reviewed by independent scientists. It is really difficult to conduct a study of human’s intelligence and behavior and finding the links of it to fluoride consumption might need a stronger evidence.

Researchers and dental professionals who evaluated these studies also emphasized that the lower IQs caused by fluoride could be traced to other factors, such as arsenic exposure (This is a long-term exposure to a chemical element, mainly through drinking-water and food) the burning of high-fluoride coal inside homes and the eating of contaminated grain.

Myth: Fluoride causes cancer.

Fact: According to the American Cancer Society, there is no link between cancer rates in humans and the optimal levels of fluoride in drinking water.

Community water fluoridation was introduced long before (as early as 1945). There have been  50 epidemiologic studies conducted over a period of time in different populations. And based on these research, there were numerous times that they have failed to show or prove a link between fluoride or water fluoridation and the risks of getting cancer.

Myth: Adding fluoride is like forcing people to take medicine.

Fact: Fluoride is not a medication. Just like the herbal supplements, these are not considered as medications. These are supplements which can provide health benefits to your body helping you fight various of diseases.

It is a natural element – a mineral; and when it is presented at the right controlled level, fluoride in drinking water has beneficial effects: preventing tooth decay.  However, the most critical issue in maintaining healthy teeth is to have good oral hygiene and stay away from cavity promoting food and drinks.  Even with the presence of fluoride, if you consume sugar all day long, the risk of developing cavity will be inevitable.

If you have questions about how you can optimally maintain your dental health, Dr. Stella Oh and Dr. Ash Estafan can help you. Book an appointment online or call us at our office. Madison Avenue Dentists aims to help you maintain proper dental care.