Fluoride in Water is Safe and It Works

I am frequently asked about fluoride.  The most frequent questions are:  what is it, is it safe, and what does it do?  I hope you find the following information helpful.  Most of the information is from the American Dental Association.

More than 70 years of scientific research has consistently shown that an optimal level of fluoride in community water is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay by at least 25% in both children and adults. Simply by drinking water, Americans can benefit from fluoride's cavity protection whether they are at home, work or school. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named community water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

What is Fluoride?

Fluoride is nature's cavity fighter and occurs naturally in varying amounts in water sources such as rivers, lakes and even the oceans. Fluoride is naturally present to some extent in certain foods and beverages but the levels vary widely. To help protect teeth from cavities, fluoride is also added to some dental products such as toothpaste.

How Does Fluoride Protect Teeth?

Fluoride benefits both children and adults. Here's how:
Before teeth break through the gums (erupt), the fluoride taken in from foods, beverages and dietary supplements makes tooth enamel (the hard surface of the tooth) stronger, making it easier to resist tooth decay. This provides what is called a "systemic" benefit.

After teeth erupt, fluoride helps rebuild (remineralize) weakened tooth enamel and reverses early signs of tooth decay. When you brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste, or use other fluoride dental products, the fluoride is applied to the surface of your teeth. This provides what is called a "topical" benefit.

In addition, the fluoride you take in from foods and beverages continues to provide a topical benefit because it becomes part of your saliva, constantly bathing the teeth with tiny amounts of fluoride that help rebuild weakened tooth enamel.

What is Water Fluoridation?

Community water fluoridation is simply the addition of fluoride to drinking water to increase the natural fluoride level up to the recommended level that helps prevent cavities. Almost 75 percent of the U.S. population is served by fluoridated community water systems as of 2012.

Why Would Communities Want Water Fluoridation?

Communities fluoridate their water supply because it is a cost-effective public health method that helps prevent cavities. The average cost per year for U.S. communities to fluoridate the water ranges from $.50 per person for large communities to $3.00 per person for small communities.

Cavities are caused by a disease called "caries," which is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hayfever in 5-to-17-year-olds. The pain from untreated cavities can cause people to lose sleep, have trouble eating, speaking and paying attention at school or work.

A report from the U.S. Surgeon General in 2000 estimated that 51 million school hours are lost per year because of dental-related illness. Without water fluoridation, that number would likely be much higher.

The American Dental Association (ADA) supports community water fluoridation as the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay. Studies prove water fluoridation continues to be effective in reducing dental decay by at least 25% in children and adults, even in the of era widespread availability of fluoride from other sources, such as fluoride toothpaste.

The ADA, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization and many others support fluoridation of community water supplies. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has cited community water fluoridation as one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century (along with vaccinations, infectious disease control and motor vehicle safety).

So, by simply drinking fluoridated water, you are doing something good for your oral health.

What Are The Benefits of Fluoride Toothpaste?

All toothpaste helps remove plaque, a film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums every day. Plaque can cause gum disease and tooth decay. In addition to helping remove plaque, fluoride toothpaste provides an extra benefit in preventing tooth decay by making tooth enamel stronger.

What Are The Benefits of Fluoride Mouthrinse?

A mouthrinse with fluoride helps reduce tooth decay by making teeth more resistant to decay. Unless you are advised to do so by a dentist or other health professional, the ADA does not recommend the use of fluoride mouthrinses for children younger than six years old. Many children younger than six have not yet fully developed their swallowing reflex and may be more likely to swallow fluoride mouthrinse rather than spitting it out.

What is Dental Enamel Fluorosis?

Dental fluorosis is a change in the appearance of the tooth enamel that only occurs when younger children consume too much fluoride, from any source, over long periods when teeth are developing under the gums. Most commonly, these changes are not readily apparent to the affected individual or casual observer and require a trained specialist to detect. The type of fluorosis found in the United States has no effect on tooth function and may make the teeth more resistant to decay.

Mild Dental Fluorosis

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What Can I Do To Decrease The Chances That My Child’s Teeth Will Develop Flourosis?

 For infants,

    • You can breast feed your child. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends human milk for all infants (except for the few for whom breastfeeding is determined to be harmful).  Breast milk is very low in fluoride. Nursing mothers or pregnant women who drink fluoridated water do not pass on significant amounts of fluoride to their child.

    • You can use ready-to-feed formula.  This type of formula contains little fluoride and does not contribute significantly to the development of mild dental fluorosis.

    • You can use powdered or liquid concentrate formula mixed with water that either is fluoride-free or has low concentrations of fluoride.  These bottled waters are labeled as de-ionized, purified, demineralized, or distilled.

      Parents and caregivers should consult with their pediatrician or family physician on the most appropriate formula for their child.

      The chance of development of fluorosis exists through approximate age eight when the teeth are still forming under the gums.  Fluoride intake from other sources during this time such as toothpaste and mouthrinse may also contribute to the chance of fluorosis for children living in non-fluoridated and fluoridated communities.

      What Are Some of the Controversies About Fluoride?

  • Fluoride:  the toxic import from China

  • Fluoridated water destroys your brain and teeth

  • Water fluoridation linked to diabetes and low IQ

  • Fluoride as an Endocrine Disruptor

  • Water Fluoridation promotes Thyroid Impairment

  • Fluoride hardens your arteries

  • Fluoride, a radioactive waste byproduct

The list goes on and on.  Fortunately, none of the above list has any scientific backing.  Currently, the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Medical Association (AMA), the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), etc., support the use of Fluoride, based on solid scientific evidence.

           

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