Fluoride is a compound that is naturally found in water, soil, food, and many different minerals. Not only is it found naturally, but it can also be made in a lab and is often synthetically added to toothpaste, drinking water, and other products so that consumers can reap its benefits. Fluoride is also offered in supplemental form, often as a multivitamin, in which its multiple benefits can also be obtained.
Fluoride is extremely important and beneficial in the world of dentistry. One of its main benefits is it protects teeth from demineralization, also known as tooth decay. Tooth decay occurs when acid erodes the teeth, and acid is formed when bacteria in the mouth break down sugars and carbohydrates. This acid erodes the teeth, leading to cavities and decay. Fluoride helps prevent this acid from being formed and so it prevents against tooth decay, but it also helps reverse tooth decay (a process known as remineralization). Fluoride accumulates in areas of tooth decay, strengthening the enamel of the tooth against acid and preventing against cavities.
Fluoride is ultimately beneficial however, as with anything else, when not taken in moderation its results can have a reverse effect. Excess fluoride in one’s diet has actually been found to cause health problems, and a main topic of debate concerning this has been water fluoridation. Water Fluoridation is the addition of fluoride to drinking water, and it is currently being undergone all over the United States. The benefits of this are obvious: it puts people in contact with fluoride daily without them even thinking and helps their teeth. However, the negative effects are conspicuous: water fluoridation provides excess exposure to the compound and can reduce health.
Excess exposure to fluoride can lead to dental fluorosis, which occurs during tooth development and consists of white specks in the tooth enamel. As dental fluorosis progresses, these specks can turn darker in color and become stains that are hard to clean and are permanent. Excess fluoride can also lead to skeletal fluorosis, which is a bone disease which damages bones, joints, and increases the risk of fractures.
Even though there are many side effects of fluoride, remember that it is overwhelmingly beneficial when taken in moderation. “Ignore your teeth and they will go away” is a saying I often hear at my dental office which is true. Take care of your teeth, but be smart and knowledgable about it!
Research done by: Ms. Jennifer Duffy