There has been a lot of controversy over the years regarding fluoride and its use in toothpaste as well as in public water supplies. Fluoride is commonly used in over-the-counter toothpastes, as a supplement added to drinking water, and in rinses and treatments administered as part of regular oral hygiene practices both at home and in a dentist’s office. As more and more people become aware of fluoride and its potential dangers, the demand for information on the substance has increased significantly. Although, there are many ways to define fluoride, according to the Canadian Dental Association, fluoride is “a mineral found in soil, water (both fresh and salt), and various foods.” The CDA strongly recommends the use of fluoride to prevent cavities and tooth decay and bases this recommendation on half a century of research on the effectiveness of fluoride as a safe preventative measure.
Benefits of Fluoride
The primary benefit of fluoride is its ability to fend off cavities and promote strong, healthy teeth. Fluoride is commonly used in toothpastes and by dental practitioners because of its ability to strengthen the teeth, prevent tooth decay, and even reverse the process of tooth decay once it has already begun.
One of the most commonly recognized risks of fluoride use is dental fluorosis. Dental fluorosis is a condition which occurs in children and is the result of the teeth becoming exposed to too much fluoride. Symptoms of dental fluorosis include discoloration of the teeth and/or spotting. Often, some areas of the teeth appear very white while others are brown or gray in color. Sometimes, a tooth will appear speckled. This condition is relatively rare, however. According to the 2007-2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey, a mere 16% of children experienced dental fluorosis, and many cases were so mild that the children’s parents were unaware of the problem.
The Canadian Dental Association advocates using fluoridated toothpaste and receiving fluoride treatments from your dentist in order to prevent tooth decay. For children over the age of three, a pea-size amount of fluoridated toothpaste twice daily (once in the morning and once at night) provides the teeth with a sufficient amount of fluoride protection and is not enough to cause dental fluorosis. Parents of children under the age of three should consult with their dentist to determine whether fluoridated toothpaste is needed. If it is deemed necessary, then an amount of fluoride toothpaste equivalent to the size of a grain of rice is all that is recommended. Young children should always be monitored while brushing their teeth and advised not to swallow the toothpaste as swallowing fluoridated toothpaste can contribute to the risk of dental fluorosis. Fluoride drops or other supplements are not recommended unless it is the only source of fluoride available.
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