But What IS Fluoride?
If you’re anything like us, sometimes going to the store to pick out toothpaste can be a little overwhelming. Between the different flavors, gel vs. paste, and whitening agents, it’s hard to find any uniformity between products. However, if you take a closer look you’ll notice that almost all toothpastes on the shelves contain fluoride. In fact, if you’re reading this blog, toothpaste has contained fluoride your entire life.
If fluoride is such a prevalent ingredient in a daily product everyone uses, why don’t we know much about it beyond its advertised benefits? To help you become a more educated consumer, we’re going to break down the history and benefits of fluoride toothpaste.
What IS fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally-occurring chemical ion found in rocks, soil, and water; however, it does not exist on its own in nature. To harness its benefits, it must be created though a scientific process. Harnessing this ion was a scientific achievement, and its benefit so widespread that it was added to water and toothpaste in the 20th century. Fluoride protects your teeth by making them stronger and more resident to the bacteria that feed on their outer surfaces. Thanks to fluoride in toothpaste, there has been a significant decline in cavities over half a dozen generations.
While fluoride is generally lauded as a great accomplishment in public health, some concerns remain about what is the proper amount of fluoride for kids. Overconsumption of fluoride in young children can lead to fluorosis. This condition is caused prior to age eight and is a result of getting too much fluoride when the teeth are forming in the gums. It’s estimated less than one in four people have this purely cosmetic condition.
In 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noticed an increase in the number of fluorosis cases among children. They speculated this was due to the amount in the water combined with fluoride toothpaste. To address this concern, the recommended amount of fluoride in water was reduced. While this new recommendation has brought awareness to the fluorosis, it’s important for parents to be vigilant and monitor the amount of fluoride introduced to their children—without forgetting the core benefits of fluoride use.
What’s the “fluoride footprint?”
While we are bombarded by the presence of fluoride in the market and—whether or not you know it—in your own home, you might be most familiar with fluoride treatments at the dentist’s office. After reading the potential adverse effects, you might be thinking these treatments aren’t necessary, or even a waste of money. However, that’s simply not true. Fluoride treatments are beneficial at any age—especially at a you age. While young children are more susceptible to cavities, older people are more likely to experience cracked teeth and gum disease. Fluoride strengthens the teeth and acts as a bonding agent to prevent bad bacteria from infiltrating the gum line and causing root diseases. Root decay is a leading cause of pain in the middle-aged. In addition to being painful, it is more serious than tooth decay. Fluoride helps to prevent this dental disease.
The discovery of fluoride and its inclusion in tap water, toothpaste, and mouthwash has led to a drastic decline in the number of cavities and other oral health diseases. Just like with any supplement, it’s important to understand how to properly use it and how to prevent harm from overuse.
Fluoride is such an important factor in keeping your mouth healthy that we encourage you to continue to use it and to ask us about professional fluoride treatments! If you have any concerns about its intended use or how to protect your child against fluorosis, please call our office today!
Also published on Medium.