Fluoride Is Safe Pt. 1: How It Works
Tooth decay, which causes cavities, is one of the biggest public health problems in the US today; it’s only second to the common cold in terms of the sheer number of people who have cavities.
To avoid cavities, it’s very important to maintain good oral hygiene habits, stick to a sensible diet, and see your dentist twice a year for cleanings and examinations. At Dores Dental (located in Longmeadow, MA) we provide an additional safeguard against tooth decay and cavities: a fluoride treatment. Fluoride strengthens the enamel, which is the protective coating on your teeth (enamel doesn’t grow back; once it is gone, it is gone, and without it your teeth are highly vulnerable to infection and tooth loss).
Advocates of “alternative” medicine and dentistry make many claims about the “dangers” of fluoride. These, like the myths and rumors that we discussed in a blog post in April, are based on bad science (or no science at all) and are entirely untrue. As with root canals, these misconceptions are pushed on the public by unscrupulous individuals who profit by selling junk science in the form of alternative treatments. One tactic of these individuals and groups is to assert that their evidence is based on the “most recent research”. Just like with root canals, the “dangers of fluoride” is a myth that is much older than it seems.
We’re starting off this month with a two-part blog post to help you understand the role that fluoride plays in the maintenance of your teeth, and why a fluoride treatment can vastly improve the health of your teeth, and to have a little fun exploring and dispelling some of the myths about fluoride.
Why Does Tooth Decay Happen and How Does Fluoride Prevent It?
Tooth decay happens when the enamel of your teeth becomes degraded by the acids that are produced by the naturally occurring bacteria that live in your mouth. The bacteria produce the acids as a waste product from consuming glucose, a sugar that is common in many foods, especially those that are highly processed (as well as carbohydrates, carbonated drinks, and candy to name a few examples). Glucose is present in the tiny bits of food left over in your mouth, and it is also present in your saliva.
Your enamel is made of densely packed mineral crystals, and it is in a constant process of adding and losing minerals. Remineralization is the process through which enamel gains minerals (such as calcium, phosphate, and fluoride). Demineralization is when those minerals are lost.
Under normal conditions, this process of gain and loss is balanced; however, if there is too much acid (from too much bacteria; bacteria are the plaque that builds up on your teeth, and it must be maintained with good oral hygiene habits. If you fail to keep your teeth in good condition, the bacterial population gets so large that your body’s natural defenses can’t keep them under control), tooth decay and cavities are the result. Fluoridation helps to accelerate remineralization, strengthening the enamel that protects your teeth from decay.
Your dentist can give you a fluoride treatment, which is the topical application of fluoride on to the surface of the teeth using a gel. You also get fluoride through the toothpaste and other oral hygiene products you use, as well as certain foods, and fluoride is added to the water supply (in the US, but not everywhere) to increase the oral health of the population in general, because fluoride is also effective in strengthening your teeth by ingestion; the fluoride enters your bloodstream and makes its way into your teeth.
I’ve Heard That Fluoride is Very Dangerous.
If consumed in relatively gigantic quantities, yes, the fluoride which is used to strengthen your enamel can be toxic. While the actual quantity of fluoride varies between toothpaste, the water supply, and fluoride treatments from your dentist, it is always very small and well below these dangerous levels.
This is true of many of the chemicals that we use and consume every single day (for example, the “new car smell” isn’t an added fragrance; it’s the plastic and other materials in the car more or less evaporating. It’s not good for you, but it is certainly not dangerous).
So why is fluoride any different? Could it be:
- New and groundbreaking research that has turned the tables on the use of fluoride?
- Has there been a recent spike in fluoride related illnesses?
- Perhaps there is something in the manufacturing process that makes fluoride so dangerous, even in quantities that the legitimate medical community has deemed not only safe, but beneficial?
Find The Truth Behind Anti-Fluoride Pseudoscience In Our Next Post!
To protect yourself from tooth decay, cavities, and other potentially serious diseases such as periodontal (gum) disease (and worse), the best thing you can do is:
- Brush, floss, and rinse with mouthwash twice a day
- See your dentist at least twice yearly
- When you see your dentist, ask how fluoride treatments can help you overcome tooth decay today and prevent it tomorrow!