A mineral widely distributed in nature, fluoride helps prevent tooth decay and fortify tooth structure. Research in the 1930s indicated that people from communities with fluoridated drinking water had fewer cavities than those who didn’t have fluoride in the water, so most areas in the US added fluoride to their water supplies. Fluoride works in two ways: it strengthens the enamel on primary teeth and adult teeth as they develop, and it hardens adult teeth once they emerge.
During your day, the acids in your mouth can demineralize teeth and weaken their surfaces. Fluoride helps stop the bacteria and plaque from destroying tooth structure. It also restores the minerals and repairs fragile spots in your teeth.
Most dentists recommend fluoride treatments for children. Fluoride varnish applications integrate with growing teeth and help them develop resistance to damaging acids. However, recent studies have shown that too much fluoride in young children can cause fluorosis, small white flecks that stain teeth. Because of this issue, children under age two should not use fluoride toothpaste.
In some cases, people are becoming overexposed to fluoride. Since fluoride is in the drinking water, toothpaste, and other dental products, you can ingest too much of this substance. And at higher levels, fluoride can be toxic. Issues like thyroid impairment, bone disease, and increased risk of cancer can occur.
To ensure you and your family get the right amount of fluoride:
• Ask your dentist before buying products with fluoride
• Find out the fluoride levels in your water supply
• Use fluoride-free training toothpaste for young children