The use of fluorides to strengthen teeth isn’t as straightforward as we once thought. In fact, some of us may be getting too much fluoride. It is true, cavity rates have declined since the 40s and 50s and fluoride drops became popular for children. But this decline also could be due to the effect of better oral care at home and regular dental checkups, and not just fluoride alone.
Why are Fluorides Important in Dentistry?
Scientific research has proven that fluoride ions reduce cavities in children and adults by making dental enamel less soluble, hardening tooth enamel softened by acids and reducing the ability of dental plaque to produce the acids that contribute to the decay process. When used effectively, fluoride compounds are a powerful preventive agent.
Sources of Fluorides
Fluoride ions are provided mainly through fluoride compounds in drinking water, toothpastes, mouth rinses, supplements (lozenges, tablets, drops) and fluoride gels, which are applied during a visit to the dental office.
Recent evidence indicates that fluoride applied topically is more effective for cavity reduction than fluoride taken systemically, when teeth have erupted. Topical delivery of fluoride includes uses of toothpastes, rinses or gels in a mouth tray.
Can Fluoride be Harmful?
Yes. Dental fluorosis, a white mottling or flecking on children’s teeth, is related to exposure to fluoride beyond what is necessary for the prevention of tooth decay. Most dental fluorosis is mild and barely visible. Moderate to severe cases can be unsightly and require cosmetic dental treatment.
Since fluoride is often already found in our drinking water, parents should educate children to use only a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste on their toothbrush to reduce the amount of fluoride ingested during swallowing.
The Bottom Line on Fluoride
The Canadian Dental Association recommends fluoride drops be given only to children aged 3 and over. VCCID does not recommend fluoride supplements unless you are prone to cavities.
Water fluoridation is still recommended by the US Dental Association, however, we believe that fluoride should primarily be applied topically as in toothpaste or at the dentist, and not added to the water supply.
For more information about fluoride and tooth care, contact VCCID today.