Fluoride is a mineral found in the Earth’s crust. In many countries, including the US, it's added to drinking water to help prevent tooth decay. There are advantages to drinking fluoridated water, but some people believe that ingesting fluoride has health risks.
Fluoride can be used in certain kinds of dental treatments such as mouth rinses and tooth sealants. At Comprehensive Dental Group, we believe in keeping our patients informed about their dental health, so we’ve put together a summary of the arguments for and against fluoride. With this information you can make an informed choice about using fluoride treatments.
The main benefit of fluoride is that it helps prevent tooth decay and cavities. Fluoride has a protective effect on teeth because it integrates into tooth enamel. This means fluoride helps repair the damage that bacteria creates, and makes it harder for further damage.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), tooth decay in both adults and children has reduced by up to 40% since fluoride was added to drinking water in the 1940s. The Centers for Disease Control says that adding fluoride to water has been so beneficial that it's one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century.
More than six decades worth of research has been carried out to monitor the effectiveness and safety of fluoride. According to the ADA, these studies have found that fluoridated water reduces cavities in primary teeth by up to 60%, and in adult teeth by 35%. And more adults retain healthy strong teeth well into their golden years, in part because of fluoridated water.
There are several reasons why fluoride is controversial. Some people don't like the fact that people don't have a say about whether fluoride is added to drinking water. Some are concerned because fluoride is toxic in very large doses. Other people think that fluoride causes cancer. Is this true?
Over the years studies have been carried out to look at whether fluoride may increase cancer risk. These include a 1991 Public Health Service report and a 1993 National Research Council Study, and compared cancer death rates of millions of people who lived in areas with and without fluoridated water. Neither study found any evidence that fluoridated water was associated with increased cancer risk.
One thing that is known is that excessive fluoride ingestion in childhood can lead to fluorosis, which causes discolored teeth. According to the ADA, however, fluorosis isn't harmful and only affects the appearance of the teeth.
The truth is, there is very little evidence to support the claims that fluoride causes health problems, and no evidence that fluoride causes cancer in humans.
Animal studies expose the animals to extremely high levels of fluoride—much more than people get from drinking water. The levels of fluoride in water are controlled carefully to make sure people don't drink too much. You'd have to drink 10 liters of water a day for a very long time to ingest a toxic dose of fluoride!
If you have questions about fluoride, we have answers and solutions! If you’d like to know more about fluoride intake, or would like to schedule a treatment, make sure to contact us at our Larchmont, NY dental practice today!