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Fluoride Side Effects: is it Bad For You?

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Fluoride is a natural mineral that, when added to your oral care, strengthens your teeth and helps prevent cavities. For this reason, it's been considered a benefit to community water systems in countries like the U.S. for 70 years. Since the inception of community water fluoridation, though, the practice has been controversial. Is fluoride bad in any way?

Origins of Fluoride Controversy

In 1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan, started to add fluoride to its water supply – the first city in the world to do so. Topical Fluorides are applied in greater concentration on the tooth surface and its application is divided into 3 types: Fluoride dentifrices, Tooth Stains and Fluoride mouth rinse reports the Indian Dental Association.

Nevertheless, there are a few reasons the practice has been controversial. Some people believe fluoridation programs are too expensive, though the lifetime cost per person is less than a single dental filling. Still others argue that the government should have no role in the population's dental health. Of course the alleged health risks of fluoride are another persistent source of controversy – here's what certain scientific studies have said about them. Community water fluoridation is possible only where a central public water supply system is present. Water fluoridation is not practised in India.

Why It's Safe

The Indian Dental Association confirms that both the safety and benefits of fluoride are well documented. There has never been any scientific evidence linking fluoride to adverse health effects if consumed in moderation. In fact, the evidence consistently shows that fluoride is safe and effective in the amounts your toothpaste and household tap would provide. Rest assured none of the following common concerns have real connections to fluoride:

  • Allergies
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Cancer
  • Down syndrome
  • Heart disease
  • Low intelligence
  • Osteoporosis
  • Renal (kidney) disorders

It's not just the IDA that upholds the merits of fluoride, though; according to the IDA, more than 125 organizations around the world also recognize its safety and value. These organizations include the Anerican Dental Association, the Fluoride Knowledge and Action Network and the World Health Organization.

Fluorosis - Fluoride is safe in appropriate doses, but like anything else, it is possible to get too much of a good thing. After decades of research, the main risk linked to fluoride overuse is dental fluorosis, a cosmetic condition that kids can develop if they're exposed to excessive fluoride when they are too young.

Affected children may have teeth with white spots or lines, and in severe cases, even brown or gray discoloration on their enamel. This condition often occurs when children swallow fluoride toothpaste, which is why it's important to supervise them while they are brushing to ensure they are spitting along the way.

How Fluoride Protects Teeth

Fluoride protects your mouth in a couple of different ways. First, it strengthens your teeth by helping the enamel remineralization process, wherein minerals like calcium are deposited back into your teeth. The addition of these minerals helps to keep your enamel strong and safe from decay. Second, fluoride helps to control the acid inside your mouth. Normally the bacteria on your teeth feed on sugars and produce acids that erode the surface, but fluoride keeps your mouth resilient to this common effect.

Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush is an easy way to make sure you get the fluoride your enamel needs. As long as you have healthy teeth to begin with, the combination of fluoridated drinking water and fluoride toothpaste is sufficient for your daily routine. If your tap water is not fluoridated, or if you drink bottled water that does not have its own, your dentist may recommend in-office fluoride treatments to make sure you are getting the protection you need.

Fluoride has been controversial since it's introduction, but is fluoride bad in observable ways? Fortunately, the answer is no. This naturally occurring mineral is a safe ingredient that can help keep your teeth strong and cavity-free. If you are concerned you are not getting enough fluoride, talk to your dentist to find out if a professional treatment is appropriate for you.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.