What should you know about fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral usually found in water and some foods, including tea and fish. Fluoride improves dental health by helping to prevent tooth decay so it is added to toothpaste and, in some areas, to the water supply.
What is tooth decay?
Tooth decay is a major health concern worldwide. Tooth decay appears when acid in the mouth attacks the tooth enamel. The acid comes from bacteria that form a sticky layer called plaque on the teeth. Eating and drinking sugary food and drink causes more acid to be produced.
Fluoride works by strengthening the tooth enamel, and reducing the amount of acid that the plaque bacteria produce. Children who have fluoride when their teeth are growing also develop smoother teeth which are easier to keep clean.
Are you getting enough fluoride?
There are only a few places where there is enough natural fluoride in the water supply to benefit dental health. In some places it is added to water. (Your water supplier will be able to tell you whether your water supply has fluoride added.) Most people get the fluoride they need by using fluoride toothpaste. Brushing every day with fluoride toothpaste is very effective in preventing tooth decay. Some people need extra help and their dentist can apply special fluoride varnishes to their teeth or recommend higher strength fluoride toothpastes.
Is fluoride safe?
There have been claims that fluoride may be linked to various medical conditions, however scientists have studied the effects of fluoride for over 60 years and they have not found any evidence that fluoride causes any harmful side effects.
There is a condition called ‘dental fluorosis’ which can occur when children have too much fluoride when the teeth are developing. This can happen when fluoride supplements are taken by children who live in areas with fluoridated water or when children swallow toothpaste. This is usually seen as very fine pearly white lines or flecking on the surface of the teeth. While this is rare and only damages the appearance of the teeth, children under seven should always be supervised while brushing their teeth and use just a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
The fact is, if you want strong healthy teeth you can safely choose a fluoride toothpaste.