Research has shown that fluoride not only reduces cavities in children and adults, but it also helps repair the early stages of tooth decay, even before the decay is visible. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named community water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral compound found in water and soil. It is also present in foods and beverages at varying concentrations. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making the entire tooth surface more resistant to acid attacks from the bacteria that live in the plaque on your teeth. Fluoride also promotes re-mineralization (adding minerals such as calcium back in to your teeth), which aids in repairing early decay before a cavity (hole) forms in the tooth.
There are two ways to increase fluoride protection: topical and systemic applications. Topical fluoride is applied directly to and absorbed by the surface of the teeth. It is found in personal oral hygiene products such as toothpastes and mouth rinses, which contain a safe and effective concentration of fluoride to fight tooth decay. These products are rinsed from the mouth without swallowing.
At Spring Creek Dental, our professionals administer fluoride varnishes to both children and adults at periodic intervals. Patients should avoid eating or drinking hot food or beverages for 30 minutes following the application of the fluoride varnish. For our patients with a high risk of cavities, we may prescribe a fluoride gel or prescripton strength toothpaste for daily home use. Systemic fluoride is taken into the body through consuming fluoridated water, fluoride supplements or foods and beverages. Once systemic fluoride is absorbed via the gastrointestinal tract, the blood distributes it throughout the entire body. Fluoride is then deposited into unerupted, developing teeth. Systemic fluoride is also found in saliva and it continually bathes the teeth, providing a topical application to protect teeth.
Fluoride can occur in drinking water naturally as a result of the geological composition of soils and bedrock. Fluoridation of community water supplies is simply the precise adjustment of the existing naturally occurring fluoride levels in drinking water to an optimal fluoride level recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service (0.7 – 1.2 parts per million) for the prevention of dental decay.
Studies conducted throughout the past 60 years have consistently indicated that fluoridation of community water supplies is safe and effective in preventing dental decay in both children and adults. It is the most efficient way to prevent one of the most common childhood diseases – tooth decay (5 times as common as asthma and 7 times as common as hay fever in 5- to 17-year-olds).
If most of your water comes in the form of bottled water, you are missing out on the valuable fluoride found in tap water, which helps to protect teeth from cavities. In most cases, the fluoride concentrations in bottled water (even in some that are fluoridated) fall below the U.S. government’s recommended range of 0.7-1.2 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride, the ideal range to prevent cavities. If you drink mostly bottled water, you should talk to your dentist about fluoride supplements (tablets or drops), fluoride mouth rinses and topical fluoride gels. Fluoride supplements can be prescribed for children ages 6 months to 16 years who are at high risk for tooth decay and whose primary drinking water has a low fluoride concentration.