There are a lot of misconceptions about fluoride. From conspiracy theories to chemical arguments, the history of fluoridation has been a lightning rod for controversy throughout the twentieth century. But, if you’re a dentist, the introduction of fluoride has been one of the best technological advancements since sliced bread!
Before we talk about why we love fluoride, we should take a second to discuss what fluoride is. Fluoride, without getting too far into the chemistry side of things, is an inorganic, single-atom molecule of the element fluorine. It occurs naturally in both ground-water and food, usually in low quantities. Some plants, like tea, contain significantly higher quantities of fluoride than others.
Fluoride occurs naturally in plants like tea
We dentists and dental health professionals like fluoride because–at the right levels–fluoride protects your teeth from harmful bacteria. Also, fluoride is known to promote healthy bones! We like it so much that fluoride is included in almost every dental health product available. Toothpaste, mouthwash, and even fluoride tablets all take advantage of the same protection that fluoride provides us.
Fluoride is essential for the dental health of the nation. Starting in 1945, several cities began to introduce fluoridated water. Since then, the constant low-level of fluoride has kept our teeth cleaner than any other time in history! For instance, did you know that it was pretty common for people over the age of 65 to lose most of their teeth before they died? Now, it’s much easier to keep your original teeth throughout your entire life! It’s all a matter of constant maintenance and protection given by fluoride.
As with any substance, amount is important
Of course, it’s important to remember that–as with any other substance–too much fluoride can be harmful. It’s all a matter of dosage, or how much the average person consumes. Fortunately, for fluoride to be effective, it’s an infinitely smaller dose than would cause harm: according to the USDA’s Dietary Reference Intakes, you’d need to drink about 10 liters of fluoridated water for any harm to come to you (for reference, it takes about 6 liters of water to start suffering from water poisoning!)
The bigger issue with fluoride is when we begin to think about treating infants and very young children with fluoride products. Where it takes about 10 mg/day for fluoride to hurt an adult, that dose is much lower for children. However, early childhood is an important stage to start treating their teeth with fluoride to protect the mouth and set them up for a lifetime of healthy teeth. It’s important to speak to your dentist about the right treatments for your children.
If you’re curious about the role that fluoride plays in dentistry, feel free to contact Dr. Matthews’ office. Having healthy teeth is a lifetime issue, and we can help keep them where they should be!