Young woman holding a toothbrush and placing toothpaste on it.

Young woman holding a toothbrush and placing toothpaste on it.

There was a time when people simply assumed that they would eventually have to replace their teeth with dentures. It was just believed that by the time they reached a certain age, decay would have taken enough of their teeth that there would be no other choice.

Now, though, more people than ever before will keep their natural teeth their entire lives, and a lot of that is due to fluoridated water and the use of fluoride in at-home and professional dental products.

In the past few decades, the use of fluoride has significantly reduced tooth decay in children and adults throughout the population. Of course, some people don’t understand exactly how important fluoride is for your teeth, and are even suspicious of fluoridated water. However, research continues to show that it is completely safe and effective when used correctly.

What is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a mineral that is extremely effective in preventing the early signs of tooth decay. It actually makes the teeth stronger, so they are more resistant to acids, and it has some remineralization effects that can affect some of the early decay that may be taking place.

Fluoride is naturally found in soil, water, foods, and several other minerals but can also be synthesized in laboratories. This is normally the kind of fluoride you will find in dental products..

Why Is It Added to Drinking Water?

It was in the 1930s that scientists started making connections between communities with naturally fluoridated water and better oral hygiene. The first tests were performed in Grand Rapids Michigan in 1945 and would last for 15 years. This kind of test was unprecedented, because the researchers were able to monitor nearly 30,000 school children. After 11 years, the rate of cavities among the children born after the fluoride was added to the water dropped more than 60%.

Two Types of Fluoride

Dental fluoride can be divided into two basic categories: topical and systemic.

Topical fluoride includes all the toothpastes, mouthwashes, and professional treatments that you are used to. The goal is to treat the teeth that are already present in the mouth.

Systemic fluoride is ingested so the body can use it to build stronger tooth structures. However, it can also contribute to protecting existing teeth because it will put more fluoride in the saliva, where it can continually work on your teeth. You will get this kind of fluoride through fluoridated water or special tablets or lozenges (though these are only available through prescriptions in very specific cases).

Is It Possible to Have Too Much?

Many people have heard stories about fluoride in the water causing real problems such as dental fluorosis (mottled and pitted teeth). It is true that too much fluoride in the water can be harmful, but the instances in which this occurs are strictly limited to naturally occurring fluoride. In other words, some water supplies have fluoride occurring in such high levels that it is harmful to drink.

If it is used in the correct amounts, the ADA, the World Health Organization, the AMA, and the British Dental Association all agree that it is safe and beneficial.

Get Your Fluoride

Fluoride is as important in fighting tooth decay as it is strengthening developing teeth, which means that both adults and children should be getting regular treatments. Simply put, this is – and has been – our best weapon in the fight against cavities.

The combination of fluoridated water and modern dental products is contributing to better teeth across the board. Stick to your routines and make sure you’re getting this important element in your daily routine.