Since fluoride was introduced to communities as a public health measure back in the late 1940’s, it has proven to be the greatest cavity fighter we have. Most of us are familiar with fluoride as an additive to our water supply, but ever since we were children, we’ve ingested microscopic amounts of this naturally-occurring mineral in food. And there are other fluoride treatments that can be of great benefit to your oral and dental health.
Before we get started on the importance of fluoride and the impact it has on your overall dental health, we’ll address a common myth about fluoride.There are some who believe that fluoride is harmful to your health. Some don’t use it at all because they believe fluoride is a carcinogen that causes osteosarcoma (a rare type of bone cancer) in boys younger than 19.
But studies by the Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada haven’t found a link between water fluoridation and cancer. In fact, another study shows that water fluoridation is effective at reducing levels of tooth decay among children.
So, now that the myth has been debunked about fluoride, let’s discuss how fluoride works and how it helps to prevent cavities. Fluoride helps prevent cavities in two ways:
- It helps harden enamel in infants before their teeth start to grow in.
- It helps harden enamel in adults that have already grown.
- Fluoride is the negative ion of the element fluorine.
- Fluoride exists naturally in virtually all water supplies, just at different levels.
- Found in fresh water, sea water, soil, plants, rocks, many foods, and air.
- The benefits of the right amount of fluoride for teeth have been proven.
- It’s recognized by dental associations worldwide as an important mineral for healthy teeth.
- It helps prevent cavities.
- 99% of the fluoride in the body is stored in the bones and teeth.
- Fluoride is added to toothpastes, mouthwashes, and even floss.
- Fluoride can be taken via supplements (but should only be done so via a medical practitioner’s recommendation – your dentist or your doctor).
- In dentistry, fluoride is used to
- remineralize teeth to rebuild lost tooth enamel
- slow down the loss of minerals from teeth
- reverse early decay
- prevent proliferation of oral bacteria.
- In the 1940s, cities began to add low concentrations of fluoride to their water systems to help with the oral health of residents.
- The decision to add fluoride to city water supplies is determined by each individual city council.
- Depending on your oral health status, we may recommend additional special treatment with fluoride.
- Dental application of fluoride can be done with a concentrated rinse, gel, foam, or varnish.
- Dental fluoride treatments are applied by mouthwash, brush, snuggly fitting tooth tray, or with a swab.
- Applying dental fluoride is completely pain free.
- After dental fluoride is applied, you must wait for half an hour before eating or drinking, as this allows the fluoride to absorb fully.
- Insurance usually covers the cost of fluoride treatment for children.
- Sometimes people develop white spots on their teeth from an excess of fluoride, often caused by children swallowing an excessive amount of fluoride – a good reason to supervise your little ones when they brush.
Foods High In Fluoride
- teas – the level of fluoride in tea changes with the type of tea (black, green, oolong, etc.)
- blue crab, shrimp, and some fish
- wine – red or white, but remember, red wine stains your teeth so be sure to rinse with water afterward or ask us about teeth whitening
- coffee – again, coffee will stain your teeth and if you find the stain is dulling your smile, talk with us
- raisins – raisins are high in sugar and very sticky so be sure to brush thoroughly after eating
- spinach – also right in all the vitamins that are excellent for your teeth
- grapes – in addition to being a source of fluoride, a study out of the University of Chicago suggests that grapes can extend the life of composite (white-colored) fillings
- potatoes – also have other nutrients that are good for tooth health
- water from deep wells
- flavored beverages
- carrots – also contain keratin and vitamin A, both great for tooth health
- oranges and grapefruit
- apple juice
- beans and peas
- white rice.
If you’re drinking water is fluorinated (which in most parts of North America it is), then brushing with fluoride toothpaste is sufficient. If you’re from a part of the world where water does not have enough fluoride in it (about one part per million), then we may prescribe fluoride tablets or drops for you to take daily. To be sure, or if you have any questions about “how much is too much fluoride,” ask one of our friendly team members at Battle Creek Family Dentistry.
How your smile can benefit from fluoridated toothpaste
The foods you eat (i.e., salty or sweet snacks) create bacteria that live on your teeth. This bacteria produces an acid that causes the enamel, calcium, and phosphate to be stripped away from your teeth. This is why your saliva is so important. If you’re drinking water and using a fluoridated toothpaste, it helps to wash away some of the bacteria on your teeth. The calcium and phosphate will help keep your teeth strong.
If you have questions about fluoride treatment, call us at 269-841-5049 to speak to one of our team members. We’d be happy to answer all your questions!