“Is fluoride safe?” I hear this question all the time. It is not surprising considering the confusing information available online. While some people claim that it is not safe to use, many dentists claim that it is necessary for dental health care.
What Is Fluoride? Is It Safe?
Let me start off by giving you the short version of the answer. YES! Fluoride is safe! If you aren’t using it, you should be. Your teeth and the health of your body rely on you to use fluoride.
Now for the longer answer.
Enamel forms the outer layer of our teeth. It’s the hardest substance in our bodies, and is the first-line of defense in protecting our teeth from cavities.
When we eat food, especially foods with sugars, these sugars can get stuck to our teeth, and the bacteria in our mouth eat these sugars. This creates mild acid that eventually destroys the enamel and leads to cavities. When cavities go unchecked, they will eventually eat away the tooth and can damage the health of your entire body.
What are the Benefits of Fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral, much like calcium or Vitamin D, it can help our teeth in two major ways.
It can help the still developing permanent teeth of children to have stronger enamel, and in already emerged permanent teeth, it can remineralize enamel that has been harmed by the bacterial mentioned above.
In 1951 the U.S. Public Health Service recommended that US cities begin fluoridating their drinking water. And by 1960, fluoridated tap-water was readily available. Whenever a city added fluoride to its tap-water, rates of cavities and tooth-decay dropped. And when a city removes fluoride from its drinking water (as happened recently in Calgary, Canada), the rates of cavities and tooth-decay rise. This primarily helps the development of children’s teeth, but it also assists with maintaining enamel in permanent teeth.
But, whether you do or don’t have fluoridated tap-water. You should definitely be using fluoridated toothpaste and mouth rinse. By using toothpaste you’re brushing, and that means that you’re removing bacteria and food-particles from your teeth. And when you’re done brushing, don’t rinse with water. That will remove the fluoride from your teeth before it can help remineralize the enamel.
If you really want to give your enamel an extra boost, be sure to use a fluoridated mouth-rinse too. This will help to remove food-particles and will kill bacteria that the brushing missed. Also, it will apply some more fluoride to your enamel – further helping to keep cavities from developing.
Are There Negative Effects?
There is one slightly negative side-effect from over-ingesting fluoride in children. Fortunately it’s only cosmetic. It’s called fluorosis, and if a child swallows too much fluoride, the enamel in his/her teeth will be slightly discolored. But if you talk with your dentist about this, you won’t need to worry; they’ll be able to help make sure your children get just the right amount of fluoride.
But that’s the ONLY negative side effect.
Please don’t listen to the internet rumors that fluoride is bad. It’s not. Science has proven this over and over again. In fact, I use it and I make sure that my wife and daughters use fluoride, too. This way we can all have bright smiles and healthy bodies, for years to come.