Although studies have shown that fluoride prevents the formation of dental cavities and improves dental health over all, the use of this substance is not without controversy. Many are left to wonder, is fluoride safe? What are its risks, and what are its benefits?
Fluoride is a natural element that is found in soil, water (both fresh and salt) and in various foods. In low quantities, fluorides protect tooth enamel against the acids that cause tooth decay. The use of fluoride for the prevention of dental cavities is endorsed by over 90 national and international professional health organizations including: Health Canada, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canadian Dental Association, the Canadian Medical Association, the US Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization. In fact, studies done in several cities where fluoridation occurs have shown a 60-per-cent reduction in tooth decay. A comparison of 13-year-old students in British Columbia, exclusive of those in Victoria and Vancouver areas, showed a significant decrease in the dental caries index of up to 19 per cent in students living in communities with fluoridated water as opposed to those in communities which did not practice fluoridation. (Fluoridation is the process of adjusting the concentration of fluoride to a level that provides optimal dental benefits. This level is called the optimal concentration and is safely set well below the maximum acceptable concentration.)
Just as with any mineral, complications arise only when we are exposed to too much fluoride. Cases of extreme fluoride poisoning result only in instances where a large portion of the mineral is ingested over a short period of time. In this part of the world however, the risk of this happening is slim to none, as the amounts of fluoride appearing in our drinking water are low and are closely monitored.
To maintain a fluoride intake within the optimal range for attaining dental benefits, there are a few considerations. Never give fluoridated mouthwash or mouth rinses to children under six years of age, as they may swallow it. Supervise your children’s brushing habits to ensure that they are not eating toothpaste. (This is more common amongst children than you may think!) Do not use fluoride supplements (drops or tablets) unless specifically recommended by your dental professional.
Yes, when used correctly, fluoride is a beneficial mineral nutrient. Risks only arise from over-use or over-ingestion. Toothpastes and oral products containing fluoride, when used correctly, are a valuable supplement to your daily routine of oral care in the prevention of cavities. So at your next dental checkup when you are offered a fluoride treatment, rest assured that you can accept it with confidence, knowing that it will help, not harm you.
Have more questions regarding the use of fluoride? The next time you visit North Burnaby Dental Group, please feel free to ask our knowledgeable professionals.