The Helping Hand of Fluoride

Today we are talking about fluoride, showing you just how beneficial it is for your oral health.

Fluoride, without wading too deeply into the murky waters of chemistry, is the simplest anion of Fluorine. Its minerals and salts are chemical reagents, causing a variety of chemical reactions when combined with other substances. One of these chemical reactions just happens to be very helpful for our teeth. When exposed to the appropriate amount of fluoride (which, in water, is 0.7 parts per million), our teeth become far more resistant to tooth decay, resulting in a decrease in oral health issues.

Compounds containing fluoride, including sodium fluoride and sodium monofluorophosphate, are used as either a topical treatment (in the form of toothpaste) or a systemic treatment (by adding fluoride into the water supply) to help prevent tooth decay.

So How Exactly Does it Help?

The use of fluoride offers your teeth two distinct benefits. For children with growing teeth, the fluoride mixes with tooth enamel, making that vital barrier even stronger against the attacks of sugar-charged plaque that come with our modern day high sugar diets. This equates to less tooth decay and cavities, and a stronger start to the life of your teeth.

But the assistance doesn’t stop when you own a set of fully formed adult teeth. At this point, fluoride will work with your saliva – our body’s natural defence against plaque and tooth decay – to help protect our teeth in a more comprehensive way.

So when was this all figured out?

Fluoride: A Brief History

In the 1940s, studies were done on the oral health of people with access to naturally fluoride-rich water, and those with access to water with negligible fluoride levels. The results were astounding. Once the link was made between fluoride and tooth health, the toothpaste industry got on board, producing products that were packed with fluoride. The idea was then floated that the natural fluoride levels of an area’s water supply could be adjusted to match those of the water supplies in the study which resulted in reduced tooth decay.

Ever since then, developed countries who have taken to this scheme have enjoyed a hugely reduced rate of tooth decay. Not great news for dentistry, admittedly, but terrific news for those who enjoy having teeth.

The Common Misconceptions

Some (ill-informed) people may see fluoridated mains water as an ‘infringement on their right to choose’ or ‘forced medication’. They may argue that fluoride has negative health effects, or that it doesn’t actually work.

None of these arguments, however, hold any (fluoride enriched) water.

The fact is, fluoride naturally occurs in all water, unless it’s specifically filtered out. The ‘right to choose’ and ‘forced medication’ arguments conveniently forget this basic truth. All that we’re doing by fluoridating our water supplies is adjusting the level of the fluoride concentration to optimal.

As far as the ‘negative health effects’ and ‘ineffectiveness’ arguments go, the fact that this is a program that affects whole communities means that almost no field of public health is more scrutinised. There’s 70 years’ worth of research to fall back on, and no peer-reviewed paper has provided a good reason not to fluoridate water. It works, and there are no acknowledgeable side-effects.

So Get Fluoridating! There’s no reason not to.

Ensure that the toothpaste that you use has a good level of fluoride. Check whether your area’s water supply is fluoridated. If it isn’t, you can buy handy fluoride tablets that you can add to your family’s drinking water.

Fluoride is nature’s gift to our teeth. For the health and longevity of you and your children’s pearly whites, you’d be silly to pass up its obvious benefits.

As the old saying goes, a glass of fluoridated water a day keeps the cavities and subsequent emergency dentistry away.