The recent Flint Water Crisis has left many people questioning the safety of their tap water. Now more than ever, people are turning off the tap and switching to bottled, filtered, or distilled water because they contain fewer chemicals. But that poses another problem – the water from these sources isn’t fluoridated, which means it doesn’t provide the fluoride teeth need to stay strong and healthy. What exactly is fluoride and why do we still need it in our water? Let’s look at 5 facts about fluoridated water:
1. Fluoride Occurs Naturally
Fluoride is a chemical compound which occurs naturally in most water sources, such as rivers, lakes, wells, and even the oceans. In the early 1900s, researchers found that children who were raised in areas with high levels of naturally occurring fluoride had teeth that were exceptionally resistant to decay. Continued research revealed that before teeth break through the gums, the fluoride taken in from foods, beverages and dietary supplements makes tooth enamel stronger. After teeth erupt, fluoride helps rebuild (re-mineralize) weakened tooth enamel and reverses early signs of tooth decay.
2. Fluoridated Water Dramatically Reduces Dental Decay
For the past 70 years, fluoride has been added to public water supplies to bring levels up to the amount necessary to help prevent tooth decay.
In Grand Rapids, Michigan, the first city in the world to fluoridate its water supply, a 15-year landmark study showed that children who consumed fluoridated water from birth had 50%-63% less dental decay than other children nearby in Muskegon, Michigan, who drank non-fluoridated water Other studies prove water fluoridation continues to help prevent tooth decay by at least 25% in children and adults. Today, almost 75% of the U.S. population is served by fluoridated community water systems.
Because of the important role it has played in the reduction of tooth decay, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has proclaimed community water fluoridation one of ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.
3. Fluoridated Water Is Safe
Despite the controversial headlines in the media, ongoing research has proven again and again that fluoridated water is safe when ingested at acceptable levels (2.0 mg/L). So safe, in fact, that the process has been endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General, and more than 100 health organizations including the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the American Dental Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
That being said, there are side effects from ingesting too much fluoride. This condition, called fluorosis, occurs in children whose secondary teeth are still being formed. Fluorosis causes white or brown discoloration or spots on the enamel, or tooth surface; the effects can range from minor color changes to surface irregularities of the teeth. Fluorosis does not develop after teeth have erupted into the mouth.
Fluorosis is a cosmetic condition, not a disease. Often, it is so mild that only a dental professional can detect it. Most cases of fluorosis result from young children taking fluoride supplements or swallowing fluoride toothpaste when the water they drink is already fluoridated. Parents and caregivers should closely monitor a child’s tooth-brushing habits; they should be using no more than a pea-sized portion of toothpaste and spitting it out when finished. In many cases, whitening treatments can reduce the effects of fluorosis.
4. Most Bottled and Filtered Water Does Not Contain Fluoride
More and more people are drinking water these days, particularly, bottled or filtered water. That’s great for their bodies, but maybe not so great for their teeth. If bottled or filtered water is your primary source of drinking water, you may not be getting enough fluoride to keep decay at bay. Talk to your dentist about whether you need supplemental fluoride treatments— especially if you have children. Your dentist may recommend fluoride drops or tablets if he or she feels your child is not receiving adequate levels from other sources.
5. You Probably Can’t Get Enough Fluoride from Toothpaste Alone
The easiest and best way to get the recommended dose of fluoride is through a combination of drinking fluoridated water and using toothpaste. If you use fluoridated water for cooking or making beverages, that counts toward your recommended intake, too. If you want to limit your water intake to strictly bottled or filtered water, be sure to work with your dentist to find out options for keeping your teeth protected.
Tips to Boost Fluoride Protection
Drink More Tap Water
Tap water in most municipalities is fluoridated at safe levels. That means you can easily up your fluoride intake by simply switching back to tap water from bottled water or other options. Even if you do typically drink tap water, upping your water intake is likely to be a good option. After all, up to 80 percent of Americans feel they don’t drink enough water! Increasing your water intake is good for a lot more than just adding more fluoride protection for your teeth. It can help you feel less lethargic, reduce snack cravings, and is generally good for your whole body health.
Consider Fluoridate Mouthwash
In some regions, tap water can be a touchy subject. Whether it’s the taste, hard water issues, or simply living somewhere that doesn’t have fluoridated water, it means not everyone can simply enjoy the benefits of a fluoridated water source for tooth health. If that’s the case, your best option for upping your fluoride protection is to add a fluoridated mouthwash into your dental care routine. Toothpastes can have a bit of fluoride in them, but it’s likely not enough to offer lasting protection, especially if you’re the type to rinse your mouth out immediately after brushing.
Fluoridated mouthwashes are abundant, and most of them come with a host of benefits. The fluoride, of course, helps protect your teeth – but they also can fight against bacteria that you may have missed during brushing, or offer cosmetic benefits like fresher breath. Mouthwash after brushing, when allowed to sit without drinking or eating, can be a great addition to your routine to help fight general cavities. Over time, you and your dentist may notice a big difference! Just remember that mouthwash is not a substitute for brushing and flossing. You still need the abrasive force of these tools to sufficiently clear away bacteria from your mouth.
Eat Foods Naturally Containing Fluoride
As mentioned above, fluoride is a completely natural substance. That means there are some foods out there where you can get fluoride without needing an extra mouthwash. Naturally fluoridated foods can include:
- Some teas
- Certain wines
Next time you’re building your shopping list, do a search for foods that contain fluoride. You may realize your favorite foods can be helping you keep your teeth healthy!
Contact Walbridge Dental
Questions about fluoride? The professionals at Walbridge Dental have the answers. From routine cleaning and exams to advanced restorative treatments, we offer complete family dental care to families in the Millbury community. Contact us online to set up an appointment now or call us at 419-836-1033.
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