Is Fluoride Safe?

fluoride_girlDental Fluoride has a long-standing history of safe and effective use. In fact, Brantford was the very first place in Canada to use water fluoridation, back in 1945. Today, 75 per cent of Ontario has access to fluoridated water.

What is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a mineral that can be found in rocks and soil. When water passes over rock formations containing Fluoride, ions of Fluoride are released into the water. This is why it is not uncommon to find Fluoride occurring naturally in many bodies of water.

How does Fluoride help our teeth?

There are two ways that fluoridated water helps prevent tooth decay. The first method happens when Fluoride in the bloodstream of a developing fetus or child is absorbed by the cells that produce tooth enamel. The Fluoride then combines with the enamel itself to make it stronger and less likely to decay. The second method happens when we ingest Fluoride, as small traces of it are maintained in our saliva which then work to stop and even reverse the process of tooth decay. The enamel – the outer layer of our teeth – is made up of mineral crystals. Through a process called demineralization, these crystals are broken down and lost by plaque and bacteria that form in our mouths, which in turn leads to tooth decay. Fluoride helps reverse this damage, through a process called remineralization. This is important for not only our children, but also for the rest of the population, including seniors.

Access to Fluoride

We, in Brantford, are fortunate to have a water supply that is enriched with Fluoride. Store-purchased products like toothpaste and mouthwash can also be used by people over the age of six years of age. Stronger Fluoride supplements that come in the form of rinses, drops and tablets are also available by prescription from your dentist but are usually reserved for children in areas where the water supply does not contain Fluoride. Children and adults can also receive fluoride treatments from their dental office, as necessary.

When used properly and taken at appropriate dosages, Fluoride is safe and effective. Here in Canada, levels of Fluoride in drinking water are regulated by joint efforts between our municipal governments and Health Canada. Guidelines are periodically reviewed and revised to account for new scientific research findings. While children especially benefit from fluoridated water and fluoridated toothpaste, they must be carefully monitored when using toothpaste with Fluoride to ensure that they are not swallowing it. Swallowing fluoridated toothpaste while teeth are still development can lead to a condition called Fluorosis. Mild Fluorosis leaves tiny white specks on teeth, while a more severe case can cause more severe tooth discolouration.

How can I prevent my child from getting Fluorosis?

  • carefully supervise brushing
  • if using a Fluoride toothpaste, only use a pea-sized drop of paste
  • constantly remind your child not to swallow the paste and reward him or her for spitting it out
  • don’t use a toothpaste that tastes “too good” as it can further encourage your child to swallow it
  • if you feel that your child has swallowed or will likely swallow toothpaste, buy a brand that does not contain Fluoride, tell your dentist that you are not using a fluoridated toothpaste, and bring your child for Fluoride treatments at the dental office, at a frequency recommended by your dentist.

Steven Deskin is a Dentist in general practice.

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