Fluoride: The big debate

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When it comes to dental healthcare, fluoride is thought to have a huge role to play. While the relationship between fluoride and tooth decay isn’t fully understood yet, it’s clear that the mineral does help defend against tooth decay. Still, adding fluoride to drinking water and toothpaste may come with a cost. In today’s blog we’ll be taking a look at the argument for and against fluoride and sharing our top healthcare advice – making sure you’re well informed about the benefits and risks fluoride brings.

Fluoride is a mineral, found naturally in soil and water. It’s also added to a range of products such as toothpaste, to enhance dental care. As it is thought to have huge benefits for our overall dental healthcare, it’s also synthesized in laboratories – meaning it can be added to drinking water, mouthwashes and toothpaste with ease. This is where the debate starts; is the addition of fluoride really necessary or not?

The benefits of fluoride

Fluoride is known to reduce the risks of tooth decay – in turn reducing the financial burden on the NHS that comes from poor dental care and tooth decay in children. At present, around 500 five to nine year olds are admitted to hospital every week for decay-related issues. Fluoride is though to reduce the risks of decay by ensuring the following:

  • Sufficient fluoride intake alters the structure of the developing enamel in children, making it more resistant to acid attack both now and in the long-term.
  • Fluoride reduces the ability of plaque bacteria to produce acid – a major building block in tooth decay.
  • Adequate fluoride prevents deep grooves developing in children’s teeth – meaning any plaque that does form can be more easily removed.

Much research has been conducted to validate these claims. It was noted that in areas that have fluoridation schemes in place there were 55% fewer admissions for tooth extractions than in those that didn’t.

More importantly, these fluoridation schemes were conducted by adding more fluoride to water – which becomes especially important in low-income areas. Here, things like toothpaste and mouthwash may be limited to residents, so fluoride-enhanced water can make a real difference.

The argument against fluoride

While it’s clear fluoride can have a huge impact minimising decay, it’s other aspects of our health that may be at risk with excessive fluoride.

Although it is up to each individual water supplier as to whether to add fluoride, the Environmental Protection Agency has set a maximum level of 4 mg/L fluoride for human consumption. Consumption at higher levels over time has been proven to cause painful bone disease.

What’s more, aspects of our dental health can also be affected through excessive consumption. It can stimulate dental fluorosis – known as browning and pitting of the teeth in young children. While only affecting developing teeth before they come through the gums, there are still around 15% of young people who suffer from dental fluorosis having just consumed the recommended dose of fluoride.

To discuss the right dental products for you have a chat with your dentist at your next appointment. If you haven’t booked your six-monthly appointment already, call in and book one today!  

What’s your opinion on fluoride? Share your views in the comments below or tweet us @APSmilecare

Posted on: 24th Aug, 2015