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What’s the deal with fluoride?

By Adawn

A new dawn for your dental experience.

Without question, one of the most common things our patients ask about at Adawn is fluoride. Thanks to decades of public discussions about its use in water and toothpaste, there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding fluoride. So, we thought we’d clear a few things up.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride ion comes from the element fluorine. (Remember the ‘F’ on the periodic table you learned in high school? That’s the one.) It’s a mineral that occurs in nature and is released from rocks into the soil, water and air. Almost all water contains at least a little bit of fluoride.

What does that have to do with my teeth?

Fluoride in the mouth (i.e. in your saliva or dental plaque) helps prevent tooth decay by keeping tooth enamel strong and solid. When we eat sugar and other refined carbohydrates, the bacteria produces acid that can remove minerals from the surface of the tooth. Fluoride helps remineralise the surface of your teeth and prevent cavities from forming.

Is that scientifically proven?

In short, yes. Fluoride isn’t the only way to strengthen your teeth, but it is an excellent option. For this reason, fluoride has long been added to drinking water (and to toothpaste) all around the world. Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada and the US all have community water fluoridation with over 350 million people benefitting from these programs. 

How do I know it’s not bad for me?

Official reviews from Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), as well as health authorities around the world, have consistently found that water fluoridation does not cause harmful effects. If you’re interested in the Victorian Government’s approach to water fluoridation, you can read all about it here.

So why does fluoride get a bad rap then?

If young children have too much fluoride they can get dental fluorosis, which appears as fine white lines or flecks on the teeth. This is the only genuine known risk fluoride poses, and it’s minor. Fluorosis doesn’t affect the function of the teeth, plus it’s become increasingly rare since the 1990s (around the time we collectively became more aware of how to use toothpaste correctly).

Throughout history, some people have claimed that fluoride leads to a lower IQ, autism, cancer and a number of other conditions. But there’s very little research to back up these claims. You can chalk it up to fearmongering and sensationalism. Trust us, fluoride is fine.

If you have any more questions about fluoride and oral health, you can ask your dentist at Adawn – we’re always happy to help. 

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