What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that is used in dentistry to help prevent cavities. More specifically, fluoride is a chemical ion of the element fluorine and is found naturally in water, foods, soil, and several minerals.
Both children and adults can benefit from fluoride use. Fluoride is especially helpful for those with a history of tooth decay, poor dental hygiene, a high acid/sugar diet and those who experience dry mouth.
What are the benefits of using fluoride?
Fluoride helps protect teeth from decay and cavities. Teeth with fluoride in the enamel simply resist acids better than teeth that have not been exposed to fluoride. When bacteria in the mouth combine with sugars, acid is produced that can dissolve tooth structure and cause cavities or erode away the enamel. Fluoride protects teeth from demineralization caused by the acide. It can also help with repairing enamel that has been mildly damaged by acids.
Studies have shown water fluoridation continues to be effective in reducing tooth decay by 20-40%, even with widespread availability of fluoride from other sources, such as fluoride toothpaste and rinses.
What are the risks of fluoride?
As with any medical treatment, toxic effects can occur with extreme doses. Overdose is possible, for example, if a small child consumes an entire tube of toothpaste or ingests multiple fluoride supplement tablets. Fluoride can cause discoloration of enamel if excess amounts are used over long periods of time while the teeth are developing.
Inversely, people who don’t use fluoride generally have a significantly increased risk of developing cavities. There are no known alternatives to fluoride that provide equal benefit for the health and strength of tooth enamel.