You’ve probably heard about fluoride and its importance to dental health. Often referred to as nature’s cavity fighter, fluoride is considered a cornerstone of proper oral health. But what you may not know is the specific benefits of fluoride intake, or how to make sure you’re getting enough.
Here’s our handy guide for how fluoride works, where it comes from, and why you need it.
How Fluoride Protects Teeth
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that prevents cavities by reinforcing enamel, the protective outer layer of your teeth. It helps defend your teeth against acid that will break through your enamel and cause cavities. It provides this protection at all ages.
Fluoride is a crucial element of the initial growth of teeth in children and is used by the body in the continual reinforcement of teeth as you age. This is called remineralizing, when fluoride repairs points where your enamel has been worn away. Consumed fluoride is also incorporated into your saliva, consistently coating your teeth in trace amounts of the mineral.
If you’ve noticed the early signs of tooth decay like discoloration, increasing your fluoride intake is crucial to reverse deterioration.
Where Can I Get Fluoride?
Now that you know why you need fluoride, the question is where you can get it. Luckily, the major source is all around you! Fluoride occurs naturally in most water sources. Furthermore, the U.S. government has been increasing the fluoride levels in public water sources since 1945. This initiative immediately reduced cavities by two thirds and is currently attributed to preventing at least 25% of cavities in the United States. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has named this as one of the 10 most important public health achievements of the 20th century.
Unfortunately, participation in this program is decided by each community, and not every city has chosen to do so. You can check if you’re receiving fluoridation here.
You can also find fluoride in several types of toothpaste. If you check for the ADA Seal of Acceptance, you can ensure that your toothpaste has acceptable levels of fluoride. If you’re an adult, you can also use a fluoride rich mouthwash to increase your intake and provide additional protection against decay.
If you’re still concerned about getting enough fluoride, you should consult with a dentist. A dentist can provide a professional application or prescribe regular supplements.
Does Fluoride have Side Effects?
While fluoride is overwhelmingly safe, there is such a thing as getting too much of it, and this can have side effects.
The first sign of overexposure is dental fluorosis, which you’ll notice in children. This is fairly easy to spot; you’ll see white spots on the surface of your teeth. This isn’t a significant health issue, but it can cause these discolorations in developing teeth. This will usually happen when children swallow their toothpaste.
You can reduce your child’s risk of developing dental fluorosis by supervising them when they brush their teeth to make sure they aren’t swallowing large amounts of toothpaste.
A more serious issue is skeletal fluorosis, which is the result of long-term overexposure. This will cause aches and pains at first, and eventually changes to the overall bone structure. This must be the result of exceptional circumstances, like major deposits in the soil near a water source. There are only a handful of recorded cases in North America.
But overwhelming research has found little evidence of health risks from fluoride, and there are no notable downsides to getting as much of it as you can from the sources we’ve described in this post.
If you’re worried about not getting enough fluoride, or you’d like to check on your overall oral health, we can help! Contact us today to get your oral health back on track.