Ah the Internet, that breeding ground for whackos to spread lies, innuendo, and various conspiracy theories.
Fluoride has its fair share. When it first debuted in public water supplies in the 40s, it was decried by the John Birch Society as a Communist conspiracy to control our minds. Today, there are similar crackpots fomenting false information about fluoride poisoning.
But Dr. Steier and her team are big fans of fluoride for its role in preventing tooth decay. S0, here’s some information to set the record straight about this ubiquitous dental mineral.
What is it and how does fluoride protect your teeth?
Your mouth is like a busy mine with minerals coming and going all the time. Demineralization and remineralization are the terms for the processes where your tooth enamel adds and loses necessary minerals. Demineralization is the problem. Minerals are lost from a tooth’s enamel layer when acids, formed from the bacteria in plaque and sugars in the mouth, attack the enamel. Fortunately, when you eat foods and drink water, minerals such as fluoride, calcium, and phosphate remineralize the teeth. The balance is what’s important. Too much demineralization without remineralization results in tooth decay.
Another thing the anti-fluoride groups don’t mention is that fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in many foods and water, like it or not. It helps prevent tooth decay by making the tooth enamel more resistant to those acids from bacteria and sugars in the mouth. Fluoride also has the cool effect of reversing early cases of decay. For kids under 6, fluoride becomes incorporated into the development of permanent teeth. This makes the teeth resistant to the assault of acids to demineralize the teeth. Fluoride also speeds remineralization and disrupts acid production in the mouth.
Despite the rumors about fluoride poisoning us, research shows its benefits. A Cochran review published in 2015 found that when fluoride was introduced into the water supply of a municipality:
- Children had 35% fewer decayed, missing, or filled baby teeth.
- There was a 15% increase in children with no decay in their baby teeth.
- The proportion of children with no decay in their permanent teeth rose by 14%.
Sounds like the benefits of fluoride far outweigh possible poisoning, which occurs only with massive levels of fluoride that aren’t really attainable in the real world (unless you eat fluoride like candy!).
When is fluoride the most beneficial?
It was originally thought that only children benefit from fluoride, but new research shows that topical fluoride from toothpastes, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments are important to help adult teeth fight decay. For children, it’s long been known that children between 6 months and 16 years need fluoride to help build their teeth.
Fluoride at Steier
At Dr. Steier’s practice, we provide our younger patients with fluoride varnishes or gel mouthpiece treatments to help strengthen their enamel. We can also do this for adults on request, which is a good idea if you don’t have the strongest enamel in the world (and have had many cavities to show for it).
Is it time for your next exam and professional cleaning? Call us at (561) 395-3190 to make your appointment.