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Fluoride Treatment: Is it Safe? Is It Necessary?

Aug 6 • 4 minute read

Does your toothpaste at home contain fluoride? What about your tap water?

You might not know the answer off the top of your head. That’s okay. Fluoride hasn’t been in the news as much lately, as the topic seems to go in and out of public focus every few years. 

Still, we get a lot of questions from people who are curious or concerned about fluoride treatment, especially when it comes to young children. Here are the facts!

What Exactly Is Fluoride?

Fluoride is the name for a group of minerals made up of fluorine and various other elements. These compounds are present at various levels in the Earth’s crust, the soil, the air and the water. Plants absorb fluoride from the ground, so most fruits and vegetables contain it. Animal products like milk and eggs also naturally contain fluoride.

Since it’s found in almost everything we eat, fluoride is always present in the human body. It’s an essential mineral to people and animals alike, helping to fuel the growth and strength of healthy bones and cartilage. 

Fluoride also plays a part in our dental health. The fluoride we get from eating or drinking (known as systemic fluoride) strengthens the teeth that have erupted as well as permanent teeth still developing beneath the gums. Topical fluoride, which comes from toothpaste, rinses and gels, makes erupted teeth more resistant to dental caries and decay.

Is Fluoride Safe? 

Too much of any mineral can be dangerous. For example, the human body needs iron in order to produce blood cells - but too much iron can be toxic. The same goes for fluoride, which can harm the kidneys, nerves and muscles if it’s consumed in a larger-than-normal amount.

That is why toothpaste, oral gels, and other products contain fluoride in limited quantities. Most over-the-counter toothpaste has a fluoride concentration of 1,000 to 1,500 ppm, which dissipates from the gums for only 1-2 hours after brushing. You won’t get sick or suffer any ill effects by brushing with toothpaste containing fluoride, even if you swallow small amounts accident

Fluoride treatments involve applying fluoride varnish or gel with a higher concentration of fluoride than over-the-counter products. When it’s properly administered by a dental professional, a fluoride treatment will not harm in any way whatsoever.

If you are ever curious or concerned about fluoride treatment or fluoridated toothpaste, you’re welcome to send us your questions. We’re here to help!

Why Is There Fluoride in the Water?

Because the element fluorite is so prominent on Earth (making up 13% of the planet’s crust!), various minerals containing fluoride exist naturally in the water, air and soil. However, some municipalities add additional fluoride to tap water. Why?

It all started in the 1940s when scientists noticed that children who drank water with lots of naturally-occurring fluorides (over 1.0 ppm) had far fewer dental cavities than the average child at the time. After studying this connection, it was discovered that fluoride compounds inhibit the bacteria that produce acid in the mouth and cause tooth decay.

This discovery sparked a public health movement. Communities with water sources that contained lower natural levels of fluoride started adding fluoride (in proportions of <2.0 ppm) to prevent tooth decay. Since then, studies have demonstrated that this reduces cavities by 25% in children and adults. 

Not all municipalities add fluoride to their tap water, and some have stopped adding it as public sentiment has changed. The cities of Waterloo and Kitchener no longer add fluoride, for example, and the city of Guelph never has.

Some people worry about the impact that drinking fluoridated water could have on their health. The only clear connection between water fluoridation and adverse health effects is a condition called dental fluorosis, which causes small, white specks to appear on the teeth. This can occur when a person ingests higher than recommended amounts of fluoride in their early childhood. However, fluorosis is usually mild and often goes unnoticed. 

Previous concerns about a link between fluoridated water and cancer have been debunked by numerous studies conducted as recently as 2015. For more information, the Canadian Cancer Society has a comprehensive resource page on this subject.

Why Would I Need a Fluoride Treatment?

You know there’s fluoride in your drinking water, your toothpaste, and many of the foods you eat every day. Why would you need a professional fluoride treatment on top of that?

Fluoride treatment is usually recommended to people who have dental and oral health issues that cannot be fixed or prevented by regular brushing, flossing and healthy eating alone. Your dentist or dental hygienist might suggest fluoride treatment if:

  • Your teeth have exposed tooth enamel and sensitive root surfaces.
  • You haven’t kept up great oral health habits.
  • You eat a lot of sugar and carbohydrates.
  • You have a medical condition or take medication that causes dry mouth.
  • You have a recent history of tooth decay.

We hope we’ve cleared up a few of your concerns. Would you like to know more? You can send us a message or call us any time!

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