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Oral Health Buzz

The Facts About Fluoride

Rebecca Desfosse

Fluoride has been raising some controversy lately. Should municipal water be fluorinated? How much fluoride is too much? According to the American Dental Academy (ADA), this naturally found mineral can prevent cavities and even repair teeth in the early stages of tooth decay. Here are some basic facts about fluoride.

Fluoride in Municipal Water

Over 60 years ago, a small town in Michigan was the first to add fluoride to its drinking water. According to the ADA, widespread water fluoridation is the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay.

So why is there such a backlash now? Some are beginning to question its safety and effectiveness. The ADA strongly stands by its support of fluoridation of community water based on scientific research. They discredit claims against fluoridation as "pseudo-scientific literature." Instead, the ADA recommends that all community water contain the ideal amount of 1 ppm (part per million) of fluoride. This translates to approximately 1.4 to 3.4 mg of fluoride intake per day for the average adult - an optimal amount for the prevention of tooth decay, according to the ADA.

You can check the level of fluoride in your own municipal water by contacting your local water supplier. If your water comes from a well, you will need to have it professionally tested. If your water contains less than 1 ppm of fluoride, discuss your options with your dentist.

Bottled Water

With the onset of bottled water, more and more people aren't getting the recommended amount of fluoride. Most bottled water brands don't contain fluoride. If you drink mostly bottled water, you may be missing out on this vital mineral. Check with your brand of water and talk to your dentist to make sure you're getting the right amount. She may suggest a fluoride treatment or a supplement. Be sure you're brushing with fluorinated toothpaste, as well.

Office Treatments

If you are at risk for tooth decay or aren't getting enough fluoride in your drinking water, your dentist may recommend fluoride treatments at the office. With these types of treatments, your dentist or dental hygienist will use a foam fluoride that is applied to the teeth for one minute. After a fluoride foam treatment, you can eat or drink thirty minutes later. The dental professional also use a fluoride gel or varnish that they may dry your teeth and then paint it on. The dental professional will recommend that you avoid eating or drinking for up to two to four hours pending on the type of fluoride gel or varnish that is being used.

Read more about fluoride safety in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

Source: Flickr Creative Commons

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