What you need to know:
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has named fluoride one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.
- Fluoride is not toxic in small doses, but toxicity can happen if you consume too much of it.
- Fluoride helps to prevent cavities, so it certainly is helpful to have fluoride in your mouthwash, toothpaste, and other dental products.
For years, fluoride has been added to toothpaste and drinking water to prevent cavities. However, there are suggestions that fluoride is harmful to your teeth. But what is the truth? Is fluoride really necessary for healthy teeth? What are the benefits and risks of fluoride exposure?
Benefits of fluoride
Fluoride is a mineral salt found naturally in food and water. Most people’s knowledge about the mineral is tied to toothpaste and other dental products. To others, it is infamously responsible for fluorosis, a condition in which teeth get stained due to the consumption of high volumes of fluoride.
Fluoride is used in dental products because it protects the enamel and slows down tooth decay by preventing bacteria from producing acid. But fluoride also has other health benefits such as reducing inflammation of the gums, as well as decreasing the risk for gum disease. It also strengthens bone density.
Myths and Facts
Myth #1: Fluoride is not effective at preventing cavities
Fact: Many studies show fluoride is effective at preventing cavities. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has named fluoride one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.
Myth #2: Fluoride is toxic
Fact: Fluoride is not toxic in small doses, but toxicity can happen if you consume too much of it. This is true of most things – even water! Too much fluoride may cause fluorosis, which can lead to teeth discoloration and other issues such as skeletal fluorosis (a disease that affects bones and joints).
Myth #3: Fluoride is not needed for healthy teeth.
Fact: Fluoride helps to prevent cavities, so it certainly is helpful to have fluoride in your mouthwash, toothpaste, and other dental products. For children especially, fluoride is important because they are still developing strong teeth. The CDC recommends that fluoride be added to drinking water to prevent cavities.
Myth # 4: Fluoride is bad for children's teeth
Fact: Fluoride toothpaste can be dangerous for infants because they are prone to swallow it. However, fluoride can strengthen teeth and help fight tooth decay – so long as it is used properly and not swallowed excessively (especially by young children). However, fluoride does not damage children’s teeth and child-friendly toothpastes are monitored to make sure they are harmless.
Myth #5: Fluoride is bad for your brain.
Fact: Fluoride does not have an adverse effect on the brain. Fluoride poisoning is also not known to cause neurological diseases or disorders. Scientific evidence shows that fluoride in drinking water at levels recommended by public health authorities (0.70 parts per million) does not cause fluoride toxicity.
Myth #6: Drinking fluoridated water will cause cancer
Fact: Fluoride has not been shown to cause cancer in humans. A review of fluoride and cancer by the National Cancer Institute found fluoride does not increase the risk for any type of cancer. Unfortunately, this is one of the oldest and most persistent false claims about fluoride.
Myth #7: Fluoride is a waste product
Fact: fluoride is not a waste product, it is a mineral salt that can be found naturally in food and water. The fluoride added to drinking water is a fluoride compound purified from the air or mined from rocks in nature. Fluoride compounds are also used for many other purposes such as making glass and ceramics, as well as cleaning metals before welding them together.