We’ve all heard about fluoride in dental products, such as toothpaste or mouthwash. But what is fluoride, and how does it help your teeth? We’ve got the facts! We want you to know more about fluoride and how it can protect your kids’ teeth. Let’s dive in to Fluoride 101!
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a natural mineral that can be found throughout nature, including in water. In the 1930s, researchers discovered that kids who had fluoride naturally in their water had fewer cavities than those without it. Many studies since have shown the benefits of fluoride and how it reduces tooth decay, particularly in children.
Many health organizations have praised the benefits of fluoride with oral health. The American Dental Association calls fluoride “nature’s cavity fighter!” Other organizations, such as the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization, have studied and touted the importance of fluoride in oral health.
It’s all natural, it makes your teeth strong, and it keeps the cavities at bay. What’s not to like?
Where Can I Find Fluoride?
Today, most water systems add fluoride to help the people that drink that water have fewer cavities. However, fluoride is not the only mineral added to tap water. Minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium are also common additions to water. All of these minerals are helpful for our bodies and fluoride, in particular, helps prevent tooth decay, especially in youngsters.
In addition to your water, fluoride can be found in several dental products, from toothpaste to mouthwash. It’s usually in small amounts, plus they expect you to spit out the excess. So these products are designed to give you just enough fluoride to benefit your teeth without giving you too much.
In some cases, people are prone to tooth decay, from genetics, poor diet, or other issues. In those cases, we can apply a fluoride gel to your teeth to strengthen them. Just ask your dentist!
How Much Fluoride Is in My Water?
The ADA recommends 0.7 milligrams per Liter (mg/L), and 1.2 mg/L of fluoride be in drinking water. Just to give you an idea, Swedesboro tends to have .135 mg/L of fluoride in their water. In Sicklerville, it’s between 0.54-0.7 mg/L, and Mount Laurel has about 0.1-0.6 mg/L of fluoride in its water supply.
How do we know this? It’s simple — they tell us! They’re required to let customers know what’s in the water every year.
EPA regulations require water systems to publish reports every year about what’s in your water. These Annual Water Quality Reports, also called Consumer Confidence Reports, or CCRs, should include how much fluoride is added to your local water supply. Every year, these reports go out to households, and your state’s health department keeps them. You can search for these reports to see just how much fluoride is going into your water supply.
How Does Fluoride Help Teeth?
So why on earth do we even NEED fluoride? It’s simple — fluoride makes your teeth stronger! It’s essential for kids whose teeth are still developing. Before they pop out those permanent teeth, they need fluoride to ensure that what comes through their gums are nice and strong.
How does it work? It works in two ways. For small children, fluoride in the bloodstream seeps into the developing permanent teeth and makes them stronger. As for the teeth they have, fluoride mixes with saliva and causes a chemical reaction that settles onto the enamel. That reaction allows the enamel to absorb the fluoride and make it even stronger. Fluoride also provides calcium and phosphate to absorb better in the enamel and make it stronger.
Is Fluoride Safe?
We’ve heard this question more than once, and we understand the concern. But rest assured, fluoride is safe for you to use, even if it’s in your water, toothpaste, and mouthwash. However, if small children get too much fluoride in their bloodstream, it can cause issues such as discoloration on their teeth.
Dental fluorosis is usually caused by small children swallowing too much toothpaste. The excess fluoride gets into their bloodstream and is used in developing their permanent teeth. It’s why dentists highly recommend that parents watch their kids when they brush their teeth. You want to make sure they are only using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste when they brush. And don’t let them swallow the toothpaste! As parents, we usually don’t want to encourage our kids to spit (gross!), but in this case, you want to teach them to get rid of that excess toothpaste.
So now you know the facts about fluoride! As always, if you have more questions, please contact us, the Center for Pediatric Dental Health! We’re always here to help.