We all drink it every day, probably without even realising it. It helps prevent cavities and it’s also found in toothpaste. Of course, we’re talking about fluoride, a colourless, tasteless and odourless mineral that is artificially added to drinking water.
What are the benefits of fluoride?
One reason that cavities have declined over the last few decades is because of fluoride. This mineral protects teeth via a process called “remineralization”. Basically, fluoride builds a protective barrier between teeth and bacteria. But since bacteria can dissolve this barrier with acids, we need to ingest fluoride on a regular basis to keep our teeth safe.
Where is fluoride found?
Fluoride is found in toothpaste and mouthwash, and some countries also add fluoride to drinking water. The UK adds fluoride to drinking water at a level of around 0.7 parts per million. This is enough to protect against cavities but without causing side-effects.
What’s the biggest side-effect of fluoride?
The most common side-effect of water fluoridation is a condition called fluorosis, where the teeth have permanent yellow and brown stains. Usually these stains are very slight and not noticeable, but they can be visible if your fluoride consumption is very high. Fluorosis only occurs during the first eight years of childhood. This is because fluoride can only stain developing teeth that are still submerged beneath the gums.
The first time fluorosis attracted attention was in the early 1900s, when researchers noticed that many residents of Colorado had brown stains on their teeth. These residents also had an unusually high resistance to cavities. The researchers concluded that a naturally high level of fluoride in the water supply was the cause. This led to the introduction of fluoride into water supplies across the world, at levels that would help prevent calories but without causing fluorosis.
Are there any other downsides of fluoride?
Extremely high levels of fluoride can cause health problems such as bone fluorosis, joint pain, and even irritable bowel syndrome. However, be rest assured that tap water contains insufficient fluoride to cause these problems. The problems typically only occur when people drink from untreated groundwater that is naturally high in fluoride.
Some lobby groups believe that water fluoridation is to blame for a wide range of problems including diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, and even depression and ADHD. However, there has been no scientific evidence to support these claims. Furthermore, the World Health Organization and the FDI World Dental Federation have examined fluoride in detail, and have found that water fluoridation is safe and highly effective.
Isn’t fluoride in toothpaste enough?
Unfortunately not. The UK is one of the worst countries in the world in terms of consumption of sweets and sugar, and fluoridated toothpaste alone is not enough to protect us from cavities. Sugar consumption is particularly high amongst children, and if children stopped drinking fluoridated water then they would need more dental visits and more fillings.
What if I drink bottled water instead of tap water?
Dentists do not recommend drinking bottled water instead of tap water. This is because most bottled water does not contain the optimal levels of fluoride needed to prevent cavities.Leave a reply