Fluoride is a natural chemical that is in most toothpastes we buy and in the tap water most of us drink. The reason it is added to toothpaste and water is because it has proven to prevent tooth decay. But how does it do it? That’s the focus of this brief article.
How Fluoride Works
Everyone’s teeth has plaque, which is a sticky layer of film caused by bacteria that naturally lives in the mouth. Cavities are caused by the acids released when sugar interacts with the bacteria in plaque. The acid destroys tooth enamel, which creates decay. Fluoride reduces the ability of the plaque bacteria to generate acids. In addition, fluoride remineralizes those areas on teeth where decay has already begun.
How Fluoride Became So Common
Ever since 1945, when Grand Rapids, Michigan became the first U.S. city to add fluoride to its water supply, it has generated controversy, ranging from principled opposition to government involvement in health care to wild conspiracy theories. But the rapid decrease in tooth decay in Grand Rapids caused communities across the country to follow suit and begin fluoridating their own water. By 1951 five million Americans drank from fluoridated supplies, and by 1960 that number increased to 41 million. As of 2008, 72 percent of the U.S. population had access to fluoridated water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The first fluoride toothpaste appeared in 1955, when Proctor & Gamble introduced its Crest brand. Fluoridated toothpaste has been the industry standard ever since.
Is Fluoride Safe?
After decades of research, the main risk linked to fluoride is overuse among children. If kids are exposed to excessive fluoride when they’re very young, they can develop fluorosis, a cosmetic condition that results in white spots or dark discoloration on their tooth enamel. This can happen if children swallow too much fluoride toothpaste. Therefore, it’s important to teach young children to spit out the toothpaste as they brush, and to use toothpaste that’s specially formulated for children.
When used in appropriate doses, fluoride has been deemed safe by the CDC, the American Dental Association, the World Health Organization, and more than 100 other health organizations around the world.
If you have any questions about fluoride treatments or fluoride in general, Dr. McNeely and his team are here to help. Contact us and set up an appointment today!
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