We hear a lot about fluoride – it’s in most toothpastes, and can even be found in the water we drink. Fluoride is converted from the element fluorine, which can be found within plants, soil, fresh water, sea water, the air we breathe and many foods. Needless to say, fluorine comprises much of the nature around us. So what is the role of fluoride for us? – Fluoride plays a role in the mineralization of our bones and teeth, which is an essential process for keeping them hard and strong.
Not only does fluoride keep our teeth strong, it is a great resource in preventing cavities. For those reasons, fluoride has made its way into many dental products we use today. So if fluoride is so great for our bodies, why are some people on the fence about its safety?
Benefits of Fluoride
Cavities are derived from tooth decay, which is a result of bacteria living in your mouth. This bacteria produces an acid that ultimately damages your enamel (known as demineralization). Enamel is the mineral-rich outer layer of your tooth which protects your smile from damage – but once enamel is gone, unfortunately there is no getting it back. This is where fluoride comes into play. Fluoride can help to decrease demineralization, and increase remineralization, while preventing bacteria and acid production within the mouth.
The Downside of Fluoride
As mentioned, while there are some perks to fluoride, there are some potential risks associated too. For this reason, fluoride has become quite controversial in regards to frequent use. Let’s take a look at some of those risks…
Fluorosis is a result of excessive exposure to fluoride, however, this only occurs during childhood – typically under the age of two. So, what is fluorosis? Fluorosis presents itself as white spots on the teeth. This is fairly common and is only considered a cosmetic concern.
Impaired Brain Development
There are some concerns about how fluoride affects the development of the human brain. In past scientific studies, there was an identified link to brain defects with excessive exposure to fluoride – keep in mind, these levels of fluoride were exceptionally high and found specifically within the drinking water of those tested.
So, Is Fluoride Safe?
Like many other things in life, fluoride is considered safe when consumed in appropriate amounts. Fluoride can help prevent cavities and keep your teeth strong, however consuming it in very large amounts (such as drinking water) may have an impact on your health. Don’t stress too much though – this is typically only a concern for those living in countries with naturally high fluoride levels in the water. Fortunately for the United States, the amount of fluoride that is added to water is tightly controlled. That being said, enjoy your favorite toothpaste – and as always, we encourage you to express any concerns with your dentist.