Fluoride is an extremely important tool for dentists. It can help prevent tooth decay, makes teeth stronger, and more resistant to the acids and bacteria that cause cavities. However, this element has been gilded in controversy over the past few years. Here at Artistic Touch Dentistry, we rely on the library of knowledge and recommendations provided by the ADA and WHO, as well as our extensive training at the University of Florida College of Dentistry to guide our decisions. We use fluoride to protect our patients teeth, and recommend they implement it into their daily oral health routine. This essential element is vital to the health of your teeth.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element on our earth. As the 13th most abundant element, it is found in soil, water, and foods. In fresh water fluoride is concentrated between .01 and .3 parts per million. It can also be synthesized in a laboratory and added to drinking water. The addition of fluoride to drinking water began in the 1930s. Scientists found that populations that lived in areas where the water was naturally fluoridated had ⅔ fewer cavities than populations that did not have fluoride in the water. Since then the study has been repeated with the same results. Because tooth decay can cause so many systemic problems, prevention of decay became important and the addition of fluoride to drinking water is commonplace.
How Does Fluoride Help
Fluoride is essential to dental health because it protects the teeth from bacteria and enforces the enamel. First, fluoride protects the teeth from acid that causes demineralization. It also protects the teeth by remineralizing areas that have been affected by acids. The element accumulates in the compromised areas and signals to the dental tissue to rebuild enamel and strengthen the tooth. The enamel that is developed as a result of fluoride intervention is stronger and more resistant to acid degradation. It also has been shown to reduce the bacteria’s ability to create acid in the first place.
Fluoride is an amazing tool that can help children, people who have little access to a dentist, a family history of tooth decay, those who have snacking habits, and especially those with restorative appliances prevent tooth decay and protect their teeth from the inside out.
How Does Fluoride Harm
The controversy surrounding the fluoridation of water and topical use in dental applications come from the very real harm that fluoride can do to a person in high doses. If exposed to too much fluoride between the ages of one and eight years old, dental fluorosis can occur. Dental fluorosis is caused by excessive fluoride exposure and is characterized by white specks or streaks in the enamel. In severe cases these markings can be brown and even cause the enamel to be rough and difficult to clean.
The more serious condition caused by excessive fluoride is Skeletal Fluorosis. This can damage the bones and joints. As fluoride saturates the skeletal bones they harden and are prone to fractures due to lost elasticity. Thick, hardened bones gives way to joint immobility causing extreme pain. A case of skeletal fluorosis can also include ruptures of the stomach lining, chronic nausea, and hyperparathyroidism – a condition that depletes calcium in bone and increases calcium concentration in the blood stream.
Harmful fluoride exposure can occur due to high naturally occurring fluoride concentrations in freshwater, inappropriate use of fluoride supplements, swallowing of fluoridated dental products like toothpastes and mouthwashes, and untested bottled water. According to WHO, millions of people are exposed to high levels of naturally-occurring fluoride in their drinking water. The problem is so serious that in 27 countries skeletal fluorosis is endemic. The regions where high levels of fluoride are inescapable include southern Asia, Africa, and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Keeping Safe With Fluoride
Here in Melbourne, Florida we don’t have much to worry about. In North America, fluoridated water is helping our populations prevent tooth decay safely. Dr. Brazdo is skilled at applying fluoride treatments on her patients and recommending safe levels of fluoride exposure in your daily routine. If you have any questions about how fluoride is helping you protect your teeth and stave off tooth decay, give us a call at Artistic Touch Dentistry today.