Fluoride. What exactly is it?

You may have heard the term fluoride being used before, especially when it comes to dental products, but what actually is fluoride? Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is generally found in natural bodies of water, plants and rocks around the world. It is the combination of fluorine with another substance such as calcium or sodium.

There are both organic and inorganic versions of fluoride, the latter of which is added to drinking water to help prevent tooth decay. This is also why so many dental products contain fluoride. Our Berwick dental clinic has compiled some important information on fluoride to help educate the public on the matter.

Is it safe?

Fluoride is considered to be safe by most dental professionals and there is more than sufficient evidence to suggest that adding synthetic fluoride into drinking water supplies does help strengthen teeth and prevent cavities. It was in 1945 that the first town in the US – Grand Rapids, Michigan – added fluoride to their tap water. Studies found that school children suffered from lower rates of cavities and the method was applied to many other towns across the country.

Fluoride is predominantly only toxic if consumed in large and concentrated doses. This is unlikely to happen through fluoride added to drinking water however, as the levels are closely monitored by experts. Recently there have been studies suggesting that the original study was not based on sufficient evidence and that fluoride in drinking water is not solely responsible for the low cavity rate.

As a result, there are many people who choose to filter their own water at home and refuse to drink fluoride contaminated water. The general consensus amongst professional organisations seems to be though that fluoride is still beneficial in the fight against cavities at appropriate levels.


Natural fluoride

Naturally occurring fluoride is found in rocks, plants, soil and in bodies of water. These are usually in low levels, however. Calcium fluoride (CaF2) is the naturally occurring fluoride mineral and appears in low levels throughout the environment. This type of fluoride is not toxic at all however, due to its low levels and the addition of the calcium – which is a natural fluoride combatant.


Synthetic fluoride

Sodium fluoride (NaF) is the synthetic fluoride that is added to water supplies and dental products. Sodium fluoride is a toxin at the end of the day, but still holds benefits for teeth. It is used in dental products such as toothpaste. The key to safely using fluoride products is in small doses. Fluoride can strengthen the enamel of your teeth when both swallowing them and using them on your teeth, especially in children and adolescents.


What are fluoride treatments?

Fluoride treatments come in various forms such as gels, varnishes or tablets. Over the age of 16, fluoride no longer affects a person’s teeth when swallowed. Because of this, there are certain fluoride treatments that are commonly performed in a Berwick dental clinic.

Standard fluoride treatments that anyone can perform on themselves include toothpaste and mouth rinses. Tablet form fluoride treatment is generally for children between the ages of 6 and 16 if their fluoride intake is low. Fluoride is most effective in children as it is when their teeth are still developing, strengthening their enamel.


Dental fluorosis

Fluorosis is when black or brown discolouration appears on your teeth. This can only occur in developing teeth and not fully formed teeth. The cause of this is being exposed to too much sodium fluoride at a young age. The effects range from cosmetic discolouration to irregularities on the tooths surface. The cosmetic discolouration will never go away and may darken over time.

At the end of the day, dental fluorosis is only a cosmetic issue will not result in any serious defects such as cavities. There are treatments available at your Berwick dental clinic that involve masking the discolouration. This is why it is important to monitor the intake of fluoride in young children and only use a small amount of toothpaste as well as encouraging them not to eat or swallow it.


Worried about fluoride?

Eden Rise Dental is a family-friendly Berwick dental clinic that specialises in a variety of different dental services. Our fully-qualified and welcoming professionals are prepared to help you with any questions or concerns you may have about you or your child’s fluoride intake.

If you would like to know more about the facts of fluoride and your dental health then please contact us on (03) 9702 6111 or send us a message through our website.