Fluoride: Is it safe? Is it harmful? There?s a lot of mixed information from online sources discussing the risks and potential dangers of fluoride. ?And, I have to mention that on all of my social media platforms, I get asked about fluoride daily. Everybody wants to know if it’s good, or if it’s bad, and there are even those that are completely against it. ?As an expert in the dental field, it’s my duty to inform you about the facts. . .hence this blog post was created!
The truth is, just like any other naturally occurring mineral, fluoride is safe when used in proper dosages. Like calcium, it promotes healthy teeth and strong bones, but without it, our body is weaker and prone to damage.
In dentistry, fluoride use has been regulated for several decades and proven to drastically reduce the rate of tooth decay in children from one generation to the next. As a topical application for the teeth, the use of fluoride has been one of the most incredible things to help strengthen and remineralize tooth structure. ?It helps prevent tooth decay by making the tooth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth. This is a proven fact. But in addition to preventing cavities, our Newport Beach practice utilizes fluoride for a number of other purposes.
It?s Great for Treating Hypersensitivity
?Sensitive teeth are extremely uncomfortable, especially if you?re eating something cold or the weather drops by several degrees. Unfortunately, sensitivity blends of toothpaste can take a couple of weeks to start working and must be used consistently to maintain the benefits.
Instead, you can help to treat tooth sensitivity by having a fluoride varnish applied at our Newport Beach dental practice. Most of our patients experience milder and fewer symptoms for up to 3-4 months after each treatment, so you can stop by in-between your regular dental checkups for a touch up as needed.
You Can Reverse Early Stages of Tooth Decay
?The earliest stages of tooth decay are when the outer layer of your enamel starts to demineralize due to acid or plaque exposure. At the beginning, the tooth starts to develop a white color due to minerals seeping out of it. If not intercepted at this stage of decay, a hollowed-out area will start to develop within the enamel, which is the later stage we know as a cavity.
Fortunately, if fluoride is applied to the tooth at the initial onset of demineralization, it can allow for the enamel to soak up minerals back into the tooth?s structure. This strengthens the tooth all over again, making it more resistant to the decay process.
What About Fluoride in the Water?
?Most of us get our fluoride intake through systemic methods (fluoridated municipal water) and supplemental products such as toothpaste of mouthwash.
In Newport Beach, CA, the metropolitan?s water supply has a natural fluoride level between 0.1-0.4mg/L, and when treated by water control it is adjusted to 0.7-0.8mg/L.?These controlled levels are within the regulated amounts for daily water consumption. Internal fluoride absorption (like what you drink in your water) is most effective during tooth development when a person is younger. As far as teens and adults go, it?s also better to drink tap water with fluoride than bottled water, which typically doesn?t have controlled fluoride levels and may even have an acidic pH level.
But sometimes, stronger fluoride is needed that you can?t get on an everyday basis through your tap water or toothpaste.
When to Get a Prescription
When you visit The Center for Restorative & Cosmetic Dentistry, we usually recommend a professional strength fluoride treatment after each cleaning, to help teeth reabsorb lost minerals and strengthen your smile between checkups. This can be applied through a varnish, gel, foam, or rinse. In most situations you?ll want to wait a while before eating or drinking anything, so that the topical mineral can soak into your porous enamel as much as possible.
But occasionally our patients may need a professional strength fluoride to use at home. By having a prescription written for a stronger gel or rinse, you can apply the mineral directly to the surface of your affected tooth enamel for better results over a short and long-term basis.
You may need a prescription if you:
- Tend to get recurring cavities
- Have exposed root surfaces due to gum recession
- Are undergoing orthodontic treatment
- Have sensitive teeth
- Suffer from acid reflux disease
- Are recovering from an eating disorder
- Have several older dental restorations
- Are diagnosed with a particular medical need that impacts your oral health
- Take medications known for drying out your mouth?
When is Fluoride Dangerous?
As with any other type of vitamin or mineral supplement, too much of a good thing can be, well, not good. The same can be said for fluoride use. That?s why it?s so carefully regulated in water supplies and oral health products, just as other health supplements are.?Keep in mind, however, that it’s very difficult to reach hazardous levels given the low levels of fluoride in home-based fluoride-containing products.
The only time fluoride becomes ?dangerous? is if it?s ingested in large quantities. A baby eating an entire tube of toothpaste or a teen drinking the full bottle of their mouthwash at once are both cause for alarm. Symptoms can include nausea or vomiting, so it?s best to call poison control or head to an emergency room to find out if their stomach needs to be pumped. Generally, manufacturers are prohibited from providing enough product within the container to be lethal.
Extended ingestion of excess fluoride can also change the way teeth look, causing aesthetic concerns of hyper-mineralization, where strong enamel appears brown or speckled, instead of pearly white. This usually occurs in areas of the country where fluoride is naturally present in the soil and water supply; in most cases, it must be processed and lowered by the municipal water authority in that area.
At The Center for Restorative & Cosmetic Dentistry, we follow all FDA and American Dental Association recommendations on fluoride use. Schedule a checkup with Dr. Desiree Yazdan today for more information!
BONUS TIP: In order for fluoride to be effective, it’s important to have daily exposure to it. ?So make sure you have a toothpaste and a mouthwash that have fluoride in them.
For more tips, make sure to follow me on Instagram! I’m very active on the platform and I love answering your questions!