Fluoride exists naturally in water sources and is derived from fluorine, the thirteenth most common element in the earth’s crust. Fluoride is nature’s cavity fighter. It helps prevent and even reverse the early stages of tooth decay. It is already present in all water sources, even the ocean. Water fluoridation is the controlled adjustment of the natural fluoride concentration in a public water supply up to the level recommended for preventing tooth decay. For over 60 years, community water fluoridation has proven to be safe, beneficial, and a cost-effective public health measure for preventing dental cavities.
Keeping your kids’ teeth healthy requires more than just brushing twice a day. At your child’s well check visit or first dental check up, you may be surprised to find the doctor examining your child’s teeth and asking about your water supply. This is due to the great benefits and important role fluoride plays in healthy tooth development and cavity prevention. Fluoride combats tooth decay in two ways:
1. It is incorporated in the structure of developing teeth when it is ingested.
2. It also protects teeth when it comes in contact with the surface of the teeth.
Fluoride can not repair cavities, but it can reverse low levels of tooth decay and thus prevent new cavities from forming. Fluoride stops the acid produced by the bacteria in plaque from dissolving, or demineralizing, tooth enamel. Fluoride also allows teeth damaged by acid to repair, or remineralize, themselves. Communities where the fluoride is not present in the drinking water are at a higher risk for tooth decay.
Tooth decay still remains one of the most common diseases of childhood. A simple way to reduce your child’s risk of tooth decay is to have each child drink fluoridated tap water each day. This can reduce the risk of tooth decay by 20-40%. Families that choose bottled water or use a reverse osmosis system will not receive the benefits of fluoridated water. Most bottled water does not contain fluoride, and a reverse osmosis filter system removes the valuable fluoride from the water. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recognized fluoridation of water as one of the 10 greatest health achievements of the 20th century.
If you live in a community with non-fluoridated water, your doctor or dentist can prescribe a fluoride supplement for your child. If you are unsure whether the water in your community or home is fluoridated, contact your local water department. Your doctor or dentist should also have a list of water fluoridated communities in your area. Talk to your dentist at your next appointment about how you can get the proper amount of fluoride for your child.
You can read more about Fluoride in the October 18th blog article titled “What is Fluoride?“
Come back soon and read our next blog answering questions about orthodontics.