Have you ever heard the debate about fluoride and wondered what’s really going on? While there are plenty of stories out there that might scare you, the majority have no factual basis or are supported by outdated research and anecdotal information from the public. The spreading of this inaccurate information poses a threat to the 50% reduction in dental decay experienced by today’s Australian children compared to their parents.
So, here are the facts:
Fluoride is natural
Fluoride is an ion of the chemical element fluorine. It is found in fresh and sea water, foods and some drinks like black tea. The fluoride ion is too small to be an allergen, so it is impossible to be allergic to fluoride.
What does fluoride do?
Fluoride is so important for your dental health. It becomes part of children’s teeth as they form to create a harder, stronger material than if no fluoride was present. But the effects don’t stop there – fluoride is also important for teenagers and adults to stop any decay that’s starting on the outer surfaces of the teeth. Using a fluoride-free toothpaste to brush your teeth is no more useful than plain water. Without fluoride, you have little hope of resisting the attacks from sugar and acid, and are more likely to get tooth decay and need a filling or a tooth taken out.
Doesn’t fluoride cause tooth discolouration?
If you ingest too much fluoride as your teeth are developing, it’s possible to get a condition called fluorosis, where the surface of your teeth look slightly mottled. In mild cases you might not even be able to see any effects and the teeth will still be fully functional. However, in more severe cases, the teeth may appear porous, pitted and discoloured and may fracture more easily. This normally occurs if children ingested large amounts of fluoride growing up, maybe because they liked the mint or bubblegum flavour of toothpaste. It’s important to closely supervise the brushing of your child’s teeth until they have control over their dexterity, normally about 7 or 8 years old.
What about water fluoridation?
Water fluoridation helps reduce dental decay for the whole community. While water fluoridation can cause fluorosis, the majority is not of an aesthetic concern. In determining the concentration of fluoride in water supplies, there is a trade off between maximum dental protection and minimum levels of fluorosis. This concentration is around 0.6 to 1.1 ppm.
What are the recommendations?
- Children under 17 months need to have their teeth cleaned by a responsible adult, with NO TOOTHPASTE – just water and a toothbrush
- From 18 months brush your child’s teeth with children’s toothpaste. This has half the fluoride content to avoid health effects. Use only a pea sized amount, spit out and don’t rinse!
- From 6 years children should be using adult strength toothpaste to brush. Again spit out but don’t rinse
- Parents should supervise brushing until their child develops sufficient dexterity, normally 7 or 8 years old
The bottom line: fluoride is essential for your dental health and is strongly supported scientifically.
The Campaign for Dental Health is a great website designed to answer any further questions you might have about fluoride.
If you’re still not sure, come in to Cameron Dental Care in Wodonga today and have a chat with one of our friendly team!
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. (2016). “Ask the Expert”. Retrieved August 2016 from http://www.aaaai.org/ask-the-expert/urticaria-fluoride
Australian Centre for Population Oral Health. (2006). The use of fluorides in Australia: guidelines. Australian Dental Journal , 51 (2), 195-199.
Iheozor-Ejiofor, Z., Worthington, H., Walsh, T., O’Malley, L., Clarkson, J., Macey, R., et al. (2015). Cochrane Review on Water fluoridation for the prevention of dental caries. The Cochrane Collaboration. JohnWiley & Sons, Ltd.
National Health and Medical Research Council. (2007). A systematic review of the efficacy and safety of fluoridation. Australian Government.
National Health and Medical Research Council. (2007). NHMRC Public Statement: The Efficacy and Safety of Fluoridation 2007. Australian Government.