You’ve probably heard your dentist talk about fluoride before, but what exactly is it? Well, fluoride is an element that’s naturally found in water, soil, and food. It’s commonly used in dental products, like toothpaste and mouthwash, in order to strengthen the teeth. If you’re a patient at New Generation Dentistry, you may have even received a fluoride treatment during a routine cleaning!
Why is fluoride important for teeth?
Fluoride prevents cavities by strengthening the teeth’s enamel. According to the American Dental Association, fluoride is one of the best defenses we have against harmful bacteria. It works by combining with saliva to penetrate the porous surface of the teeth. There, the fluoride combines with calcium and phosphate to create fluoroapatite. This is a powerful combination of the three minerals that strengthens the tooth structure, reduces demineralization of teeth, and makes teeth more resistant against decay. Fluoride can also reduce acid production and inhibit bacterial activity in the mouth.
What is systemic fluoride?
There are plenty of ways you can apply fluoride topically to strengthen your teeth. Not everyone has access to fluoridated products, however, so many cities in the US have opted to fluoridate their water supplies. When fluoride is consumed through water, food, or supplements, it is referred to as systemic fluoride.
According to the US Center for Disease Control, drinking fluoridated water reduces cavities by 25%. Community water fluoridation is so effective that it is considered one of the greatest public health achievements of the twentieth century! Of the 50 largest cities in the U.S., over 43 participate in community water fluoridation.
Back in 2007, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWDSC) joined the majority of water suppliers in the US in providing fluoridated water to its residents. MWDSC includes the Santa Margarita Water District, which is the supplier of water for Mission Viejo. The CDC recommends fluoride levels in water to be between 0.6 ppm and 1.2 ppm.
Is fluoride safe?
Yes! Not only is fluoride completely safe to ingest, it offers the same cavity-fighting benefits when it is consumed. Fluoride is already present in water, but water suppliers often add extra fluoride for more cavity fighting power. With that being said, too much fluoride can lead to dental problems. Because of this, most water systems limit the amount of fluoride present to 2 ppm at most.
Here in Mission Viejo, we know a lot of our patients like to filter their water before drinking it. This is totally understandable as community water can also be unpredictable. Water that has been treated to drink can often contain disinfectants and chlorine. If you do decide to filter out your water, know that the fluoride could be lost in the filtering process as well. Without the fluoride in your drinking water, you may want to seek out other sources of the mineral to protect your teeth! There are lots of fluoridated dental products that can make up for that loss. Talk to your dentist whether this is the right choice for you.
What is enamel fluorosis?
Fluoride can strengthen the teeth and prevent cavities, but it can also have negative side effects when used inappropriately. Enamel fluorosis is a condition that results in irregularly developed teeth from the overconsumption of fluoride at a young age. It is characterized by bright white or brown spots on the teeth.
When children are very young, the surface of their teeth can absorb the fluoride more rapidly. If teeth retain the amelogenin proteins of fluoride, this could prevent enamel from maturing later on, causing subsurface porosity. Teeth with subsurface porosity are more likely to stain and discolor than properly developed teeth. While this will not affect the functionality of the teeth, it is a cosmetic concern for parents.
Most dentists are not concerned about fluorosis because it is such an uncommon problem. Children would have to consume huge amounts of fluoride in order to be diagnosed with fluorosis. Furthermore, there are far more benefits than there are risks to using fluoride. Still, we encourage parents to consult their pediatric dentists before introducing fluoride into their babies’ dental health regimen. Young patients may have trouble using mouthwash or toothpaste without swallowing it, so fluoride isn’t always a good idea for them
The pediatric dentist can determine when an appropriate time for incorporating fluoridated products is for children. Some kids may not even need them! For example, a child in Mission Viejo with good dental hygiene and genetics may not need fluoride until far later in life because the water supply around here already provides enough fluoride.
Where else can I get fluoride?
If you need a little extra help strengthening your teeth, there are tons of ways to get fluoride in Mission Viejo. Many generic brands of toothpaste and mouthwash are formulated with the mineral. You can also get fluoride gel to use at home for sensitivity or cavities.
At New Generation Dentistry, our experienced dentists can provide professional fluoride treatments! If you have cavities or dental decay, the only long term solution is to see the dentist. They can provide dental exams, cleanings, fillings, fluoride treatments, and more. Talk to our dentists in Mission Viejo to learn more about what you can do to keep your smile bright and healthy.