Whether in the dental office from patients or out in public overhearing conversations, many people have heard someone question fluoride. As a dental assistant in the dental office, I hear patients ask the doctor if fluoride is safe for them and their children, and if it is safe what is the best way to get fluoride in their system.
“Fluoride is commonly used in dentistry to strengthen enamel, which is the outer layer of your teeth. Fluoride helps to prevent cavities” (Healthline). Fluoride helps strengthen teeth and prevent decay. Without fluoride, your teeth are put at great risk for decay, and further intervention is needed to stop the spread of decay in the mouth.
Now the big question that most people ask is, is fluoride safe? The simple answer is yes! The fear around fluoride started when fluoride started being added to drinking water in the 1940s. A study done at Harvard shows that adding fluoride to the drinking water greatly decreased the number of cavities seen in the office (Davis). However, a new question started being asked: is it safe to drink tap water with fluoride? The amount of fluoride added to the drinking water is a safe amount to be consumed daily. This amount is 0.7 parts per million (ppm). Fluoride consumed in large amounts can be dangerous for your teeth and your body’s ability to function. “Excessive fluoride causes fluorosis—changes in tooth enamel that range from barely noticeable white spots to staining and pitting (Davis).” This happens while the teeth are still forming under the gums, and aside from the white spots it doesn’t have an effect on the teeth. “Perhaps most worrisome is preliminary research in laboratory animals suggesting that high levels of fluoride may be toxic to brain and nerve cells. And human epidemiological studies have identified possible links to learning, memory, and cognition deficits, though most of these studies have focused on populations with fluoride exposures higher than those typically provided by U.S. water supplies” (Davis). This study was not done on humans and hasn’t been studied extensively; however, it does show how fluoride can be dangerous in large amounts!
I started to touch on this, but another big question asked is, how can I get fluoride? There are many different ways of getting fluoride incorporated into your life. The one I spoke about above is in your drinking water from your town or city. Most cities and towns in Massachusetts have fluoridated water. This is probably the most common way of getting fluoride and your earliest introduction to it. The next way of getting fluoride for your teeth is toothpaste! Almost all toothpastes have fluoride on their ingredient list. This is why kids shouldn’t use toothpaste before being able to know how to spit out the paste after brushing. Fluoridated toothpaste drastically helps with the prevention of decay in the mouth. When buying toothpaste, make sure to buy fluoridated toothpaste. Mouthwash is another big way of getting fluoride in your everyday life. Rinsing in the morning or at night helps protect your teeth from decay. Lastly, there are fluoride drops that are safe for consumption. These drops are for children who don’t have fluoridated water and are not ready to use toothpaste yet.
Whether you’re getting your fluoride from drinking water, toothpaste and mouthwash or from droplets for your kiddos I hope this shows that fluoride is safe and important in keeping your mouth as clean and cavity-free as possible!
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Davis Nicole. “ Is Fluoridated Drinking Water Safe”. Harvard, 2016. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/magazine/magazine_article/fluoridated-drinking-water/
Cafasso Jacquelyn. “What is Fluoride, and Is It Safe?”. Healthline, July 3rd, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-fluoride#TOC_TITLE_HDR_1