Is fluoride bad?
The American Dental Association endorses the fluoridation of community water supplies as a safe, effective and economical public health measure. Fluoride has been called “nature’s cavity fighter” because it occurs naturally in the earth’s crust in combination with other minerals found in the soil and rocks. Small amounts of fluoride occur naturally in all water sources.
What is fluoride?
The fluoride ion comes from the element fluorine. Fluorine is an abundant element in the earth’s crust in the form of the fluoride ion. Fluoride compounds are components of minerals found in rocks and soil. When water passes over rock formations, the fluoride compounds that are present dissolve which releases fluoride ions. The result is that small amounts of fluoride are incorporated in all water sources.
Is fluoridated water safe?
Nearly 60 years of research and practical experience provide credible scientific evidence that fluoridation of community water supplies is safe. Water fluoridation is the process of adjusting the natural level of fluoride up to a concentration sufficient to protect against tooth decay (0.7 to 1.2 parts per million). Fluoride in these low concentrations is not toxic or harmful.
Claims have been made that fluoride is toxic. There are hundreds of credible scientific studies on fluoridation and not one has shown health problems associated with the consumption of optimally fluoridated water. The only known risk associated with the use of fluoride is mild enamel (dental) fluorosis, which is a cosmetic effect with no known health consequences.
Systemic fluorides (fluoridated water, dietary supplements, certain foods and beverages) are those ingested into the body. During tooth formation, ingested fluorides become incorporated into tooth structures. Fluorides ingested regularly during the time when teeth are developing (pre-eruptive) are deposited throughout the entire tooth surface and provide longer-lasting protection than those applied topically. Systemic fluorides can also give topical protection because they are present in saliva, which continually bathes the teeth providing a reservoir of fluoride that can be incorporated into the tooth surface to prevent decay. Fluoride also becomes incorporated into dental plaque and facilitates further remineralization.
Topical fluoride (post-eruptive) is incorporated into the surface of teeth making them more decay-resistant. Sources include toothpastes, mouthrinses and professionally applied fluoride foams, gels and varnishes. Fluoride ions in and at the enamel surface make enamel more resistant to decay (loss of minerals) and help to repair or remineralize early dental decay caused by acids from decay-causing bacteria.
Dr Reid is a Pugh Award distinguished board eligible pediatric dentist. She earned her pediatric specialty training through UCLA’s program at San Diego Rady Children’s Hospital. She has also served our servicemen as a Dental Officer at the Marine Corp Air Station, Miramar in San Diego. She is mommy to 5 year old Ezra. To follow her monthly blog posts, follow her at PediatricDentistSanDiego.com.