You hear about fluoride being used in toothpastes, mouthwashes, drinking water and treatments at dental offices. Have you ever wondered what fluoride is, where it comes from and the reasons for using it to help with our oral health?
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral found in soil, water, both fresh and salt, various food and can also be synthesized in laboratories.
What Does Fluoride Do For Oral Health?
Fluoride is a natural part of tooth enamel and bone. Like other minerals in the diet, fluoride helps the body to resist disease. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making the tooth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth.
Fluoride does this by:
- Protecting our teeth from demineralization that is caused by acid. When bacteria in the mouth combines with sugar, acid is produced. When acid comes in contact with our teeth, it can start to eat away at the tooth enamel. Fluoride can protect teeth from demineralization that is caused by the acid.
- Altering the structure of the developing enamel so that it is more resistant to acid attack.
- Providing an environment where better quality enamel is formed, resulting in teeth that are more resistant to acid attacks.
- Reducing bacteria’s ability to produce acid. When acid in the mouth is reduced, this results in less chance of tooth decay.
According to the Canadian Dental Association, fluoride can also prevent or even reverse tooth decay that has started. If there is already some damage to teeth caused by acid, fluoride accumulates in the demineralized areas and begins strengthening the enamel. This process is called remineralization.
Who Needs Fluoride?
Health Canada and The Canadian Dental Association recommend that all children and adults receive fluoride. Fluoride helps to protect children’s growing permanent teeth while they are being formed. Adults benefit from fluoride to help protect their teeth from decay.
Can I Get Too Much Fluoride?
Fluoride is sometimes added to public drinking water to protect all members of the community from tooth decay. It’s a safe and effective way to distribute fluoride and help prevent tooth decay at a low cost. The water in Metro Vancouver, which includes Burnaby, is NOT fluoridated and contains less than 0.05mg/L which is not clinically significant. So there is no tooth protection in the water in our community.
If you have concerns about fluoride is in our drinking water, the Federal, Provincial, Territorial Committee on Drinking Water makes recommendations about the optimal level of fluoride in public drinking water to prevent tooth decay. The recommended level takes into account that Canadians receive fluoride from other sources such as food and beverages.
According to Health Canada, “The optimal concentration of fluoride in drinking water for dental health has been determined to be 0.7 mg/L for communities who wish to fluoridate. This concentration provides optimal dental health benefits and is well below the MAC to protect against adverse effects.”
When it comes to brushing our teeth, fluoridated toothpaste should be used twice a day. Children under the age of 3 should have their teeth and gums brushed by an adult and fluoridated toothpaste used sparingly or not at all as they can not reliably spit out the excess and should not swallow fluoride in the concentrations present in toothpaste. Children ages 3 – 6 should be assisted by an adult when brushing their teeth and can use fluoridated paste if they can spit it out.
Mouth rinses and fluoride supplements can also be used to receive fluoride but should not be taken unless recommended by your dental professional.
With the exception of dental fluorosis, scientific studies have not found any credible link between water fluoridation and adverse health effects.