Have you ever wondered about fluoride and your oral health? Why do dentists recommend brushing teeth with a fluoride toothpaste? Did you know that in Canada, fluoride is found in our drinking water, soil, and air? Read on to learn more about this natural compound and its effects on your teeth and oral health.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a natural mineral found in soils, water (both freshwater and saltwater), and various foods. In Canada, fluoride can be found in most public drinking water.
What are the benefits of fluoride?
In a nutshell, fluoride helps prevent tooth decay, harden tooth enamel, reduce acid in your mouth, and replenish minerals that make teeth stronger.
In the 1930s, researchers found that people who grew up drinking naturally fluoridated water had fewer cavities than those who did not. Since the ’40s, the World Health Organization among other organizations, has endorsed the use of fluoride in drinking water supplies.
How does fluoride work?
Basically, fluoride has a positive impact on your oral health by reducing cavities and making teeth more resistant to decay. This happens because:
- Fluoride helps harden baby teeth before they come in
- Fluoride also helps harden adult teeth that have already erupted
Additionally, fluoride helps reduce the natural acidity in your mouth. For example, after you eat, saliva contains acids that can dissolve the calcium and phosphorus under your teeth’s surface. This is called demineralization. However, when saliva is less acidic, it can do the opposite, helping replenish these two minerals that keep your teeth hard. This is called remineralization.
Where is fluoride found?
For many Canadians, fluoride is found in our public drinking water. In fact, fluoride is sometimes added to public drinking water to protect the entire community from tooth decay. Optimal amounts of fluoride in drinking water is one part per million. However, if your drinking water does not have enough fluoride in it, your dentist can recommend professional fluoride products such as varnishes and gels.
Fluoride toothpastes and other products
In communities where drinking water does not have enough fluoride in it, your dentist may recommend getting fluoride from other sources. The most common is fluoride toothpaste. In children under 3 years of age, using a small dab, about the size of a grain of rice, is enough. For children between 3 and 6 years of age, using a dab the size of a pea is recommended.
However, if the child is at higher risk of developing cavities, dentists can recommend fluoride supplements.
What is dental fluorosis?
If higher than optimal amounts of fluoride are ingested in early childhood, it can cause what is known as dental fluorosis. This is a change in the appearance of teeth, which typically manifests itself as small white spots on the teeth. According to the Canadian Dental Association, this is not a concern in the majority of children and cases of dental fluorosis often go unnoticed by parents. Additionally, no credible link has been made between water fluoridation and adverse health effects.
Fluoride has various benefits for your teeth and oral health. It helps harden enamel and prevent tooth decay. Typically found in drinking water and various foods, fluoride is an important mineral for your body. If you are concerned about not getting enough fluoride, consult your dentist today.