The Role of Fluoride in Dental Health
Virtually every Canadian has been exposed to fluoride in some form during their lives. You probably know that fluoride is crucial to dental health, but why? What exactly is fluoride? Where is it found? Do children need it? Is fluoride safe? The answers to all these questions and more can be found below.
What is Fluoride?
Fluoride is an ion of fluorine and is a naturally occurring mineral. It is found in soil and in many foods. While it has several uses, it is critical to good dental health. Fluoride is absorbed by the teeth and protects against tooth decay.
Your teeth are under constant attack by acids and bacteria. Unchecked, these substances will break down your teeth over time by causing tooth decay in the form of cavities, also known as caries. Cavities usually begin as microscopic damage to your tooth. Fluoride acts as concrete poured into a crack, protecting against such damage and even reversing early tooth decay.
How Do You Receive Fluoride?
Unfortunately, the amount of fluoride obtained through food is not sufficient to protect your teeth. That’s one reason why many Canadian municipalities have elected to fluoridate their water supplies. Fluoride obtained through drinking water aids in preventing tooth decay and promotes a healthy smile. Most toothpaste also contains fluoride to protect teeth.
Another important source of fluoride is your dentist. Throughout both childhood and your adult years, your dentist will apply fluoride treatments at appropriate intervals. These treatments are topical and are usually in the form of a rinse, gel, or foam. You leave the fluoride in your mouth for a minute or so before either spitting it out or having it rinsed away. Also, many dentists have delicious flavours to choose from.
Fluoride in Children
Getting enough fluoride is particularly important to children, even when they still have their baby teeth. Tooth decay can cause the need for dental procedures they can sometime be distressing to kids. As children begin to get their permanent teeth, fluoride becomes even more important. Those teeth are irreplaceable with natural teeth and children will need them for many decades into adulthood.
Is Fluoride Safe?
In a word, yes. It is next to impossible to receive too much fluoride from drinking water and dentists are very careful to monitor the amount of fluoride they give their patients. Sometimes, a condition known as dental fluorosis occurs when children frequently swallow fluoride toothpaste or rinses. It is mainly characterized by bright white spots on the teeth. This is one reason why it’s important to supervise young children when brushing. Fortunately, dentists are trained and experienced in recognising the symptoms or fluorosis and the condition can usually be treated cosmetically.
The Canadian Dental Association (CDA) is aware of concerns, but acknowledges that the problem is not widespread in Canadian children. In fact, the Canadian Health Measures Survey in 2007 to 2009 discovered mild fluorosis in only 16% of children in the nation. The CDA further states that, other than fluorosis, no other ill effects have been found to result from fluoride.