Every now and then, we hear the mention of ‘fluoride’ in relation to our drinking water supplies and our toothpaste. But how many of us actually know what this is? And what are its benefits? How do we know if we are getting too much, or too little? Today’s article focuses on this substance, and aims to give you more insight and understanding about what you should be looking out for.
In a nutshell, fluoride can be found in all drinking water, and in many foods. It is a natural mineral which strengthens tooth enamel, therefore making our teeth more resistant to decay. As well as protecting our teeth in this way, it also reduces the amount of acid that the bacteria on our teeth are able to produce. Fluoride is particular useful for children as their teeth are developing. This is because it makes the natural grooves and dips that children have on their teeth shallower. It is therefore more difficult for plaque to build up – and that plaque which does form can be more easily removed.
The impact of fluoride has been researched for a long time: over 60 years in fact. The presence of fluoride in drinking water has been shown to have a significant positive effect on the reduction of tooth decay. For optimal effects, the amount present in your water should be 0.7-1.2 parts of fluoride to every million parts of water. Your water supplier will be able to tell you how much is in your water supply, and of this, how much is natural as opposed to artificially added.
As well as being present in drinking water, fluoride can also be found in some foods and drinks. Lots of toothpastes also now contain the mineral, and for many people, it is this fluoride that makes the difference to their oral health, adding extra protection. However, for children in areas where the fluoride content in water is lower, it may be that extra support is needed. Fluoride is available as a varnish or gel: your dental team can apply this to your teeth to help protect them. These products are more concentrated than other products that you might be able to purchase yourself. In addition, for people who are more likely to suffer tooth decay, higher strength fluoride toothpastes are sometimes recommended: your dental team will be able to advise you if this is a concern.
In summary, fluoride is a natural mineral that is found, in varying quantities, in our drinking water supply. It helps protect our oral health by strengthening our tooth enamel, which reduces the risk of tooth decay occurring. Some people might benefit from having advice from their dentist about increased intake of fluoride through specialist toothpastes and products. If you have concerns about whether your fluoride intake is high enough, contact us today and book an appointment to see your dentist for a discussion.
For more information about fluoride, please visit the Oral Health Foundation website.