Fluoride: The Tooth Protector
Approximately 170 million people in the United States use fluoridated water provided by their public water authorities. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), widespread availability of various sources of fluoride has greatly diminished tooth decay rates in America and abroad.
Dental Benefits of Fluoride
A naturally occurring compound, fluoride has been proven to effectively reduce the prevalence of dental caries and tooth decay. How does this work, exactly?
- Strength Over Time: Fluoride makes teeth stronger to help prevent initiation of dental caries and tooth decay resulting from acid contained in sugars and the breakdown of carbohydrates.
- Therapeutic Output: Fluoride re-mineralizes areas of the teeth that are weakened by acid.
Your dentist can help determine if you are receiving an appropriate amount of fluoride in your diet. Fluorides come in two basic forms:
Topical Fluorides: These fluorides strengthen teeth by providing better resistance to decay. This category includes toothpastes and home mouth rinses, as well as gels, foams and rinses incorporated during your dental visits. The cost for topical fluoride application is approximately $30, while the cost for a topical fluoride varnish treatment is $35.
Systemic Fluorides: These fluorides include water fluoridation, tablets, drops or lozenge dietary fluoride supplements. Not all public or private water sources contain ADA-recommended levels of fluoridation (0.7 to 1.2 parts fluoride per million parts water). Check with your dentist for information about the fluoridation level in your community's water. Dietary fluoride supplements may be recommended for children between the ages of six months and sixteen who live in communities without fluoridated water. These supplements are available by prescription only.
The Bottled Water Effect
The increasing consumption of bottled water has left many Americans with an inadequate daily intake of fluoride. In response, many bottled water manufacturers are now adding a fluoride supplement to their products to compensate. In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that bottled water manufacturers may claim that bottled water containing .6 to 1.0 mg/L total fluoride may reduce the risk for dental cavities and tooth decay.
Special considerations must be applied to children under the age of seven who face an increased risk of dental fluorosis (enamel hypermineralization caused by excessive fluoride consumption). This developmental stage requires a reduced daily intake of fluoride for the healthy growth of teeth.