Most communities, including Fuquay Varina, add fluoride to the water in order to boost the dental health of residents and reduce decay and cavities. Dentists often provide fluoride treatments, especially to kids, during regular checkups and cleanings. But the past few years, people have brought up concerns that this mineral is dangerous and that the potential harm it causes outweighs the prospective benefits. To help you make the right choice for you and your family, Dr. Hamby, a leading family dentist in Fuquay Varina, is sharing the pros and cons of fluoride.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is in your bones and teeth as well as in water, soil, and plants. It’s the 13th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, too where it can be found in both gaseous forms as well as the more well-known crystal form.
In the 1930s, research showed that people whose water had fluoride in it had two-thirds fewer cavities than people who did not have fluoridated water¹. The American Medical Association recommended adding fluoride to water sources in 1951, followed shortly by the recommendation from the American Dental Association, and soon after, many communities began adding the mineral to the water supplies in order to decrease tooth decay and improve dental health of the residents. Today, around two-thirds of the water in America is fluoridated, either naturally or with additives².
The improvement in dental health due to fluoride led to the addition of the mineral to toothpaste, mouthwashes, and supplements.
The Benefits of Fluoride
Now that we know what this mineral is, let’s look at how and why it’s so beneficial to your teeth and why water fluoridization is recognized by the CDC as one of the 20th century’s top 10 greatest public health achievements.
When added to water, fluoride naturally strengthens and builds up tooth enamel to make it more dense and hard, thus reducing cavities and decay that stems from lost enamel.
Fights Bacteria in the Mouth
Fluoride lowers the pH in the mouth, causing the bacteria that are naturally occurring to struggle to maintain their neutral state. This leads to slower growth and reproduction as well as reduced acid and polysaccharide generation that leads to cavities³.
Remineralization of Enamel
As we eat, drink, and simply go about the day, acids produced by bacteria in the mouth are attacking the calcium and phosphorous in dental enamel in a process called demineralization. Fluoride boosts remineralization, allowing the calcium and phosphorous to build back up and grow stronger.
Because fluoride is so prevalent on and within the Earth, it’s a cost-effective and affordable way to fight cavities and tooth decay. It is significantly less expensive than the cost of treating decay, cavities, and tooth loss.
The Cons of Fluoride
Let’s consider the proven downsides of fluoride next.
Potential Tooth Discoloration
Fluoride is very safe when used as directed, but if children overdo it, such as using too much fluoridated toothpaste and mouth wash, it can cause dental fluorosis. Dental fluorosis is generally very mild and does not cause pain or affect the function or health of the teeth, but it can cause discoloration.
Disproven Claims About Fluoride
We are often asked about a variety of claims related to fluoride, including that it causes:
- Behavioral problems
- Neurotoxic effects
- Kidney failure
- Thyroid problems
- Reproductive issues
However, these studies have been:
- Proven false: behavioral problems, neurotoxic effects
- Shown to be inconclusive – reproductive problems
- Used in high levels not found in water or toothpaste and performed on rats only: kidney failure
- Shown to have limited data: thyroid
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.
If you have concerns or additional questions, don’t hesitate to bring these up at your next dental appointment.
Schedule a Dental Checkup and Cleaning Today
Overdue for a teeth cleaning? Don’t put off a checkup and run the risk of cavities and gum disease – we’re seeing new patients at our Fuquay family dentist office. Schedule a checkup today by calling (919) 552-2431, or fill out the form below to get started.
- O Mullane, DM, Baez, RJ, Jones, S et al. (5 more authors) (2016) Fluoride and oral health. Community Dental Health, 33 (2). pp. 69-99. ISSN 0265-539X https://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/101379/
Aoun, Antoine et al. “The Fluoride Debate: The Pros and Cons of Fluoridation.” Preventive nutrition and food science vol. 23,3 (2018): 171-180. doi:10.3746/pnf.2018.23.3.171
- Ullah R, Zafar MS. Oral and dental delivery of fluoride: a review. Fluoride. 2015;48:195–204. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Muhammad-Zafar-7/publication/280069086_Oral_and_dental_delivery_of_fluoride_A_review/links/55a9e51b08ae481aa7f98f6d/Oral-and-dental-delivery-of-fluoride-A-review.pdf