Fluoride has long been held in high regard by the dental community. Fluoride is an important mineral which strengthens tooth enamel and helps to prevent tooth decay.
Water fluoridation is endorsed by nearly every major health and safety organisation throughout the world. Countless people have benefited from this inexpensive and effective preventative treatment.
In recent times, some people have called into question the effectiveness of early fluoride treatment, and its effect on our overall health. Indeed, a number of people are quite vehement in their opposition to water fluoridation. In this section we will take a look at both sides of the debate.
In Australia, all major cities have fluoridated water except Brisbane. Melbourne has had fluoridated water since 1977.
Click on the link below to see where water is fluoridated in Victoria.
A small percentage of communities obtain water from private wells with naturally fluoridated water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that the accepted “optimal” range of fluoride in water lies between 0.7 and 1.2 parts per million (ppm) or milligrams per litre. The limit allowed by the EPA in public water is 4 ppm. Backed by results from more than 140 documented studies undertaken in 20 different countries over the past several decades, fluoridated water meeting these standards has been scientifically established as safe for drinking.
The fluoride facts
Hundreds of studies have documented the positive effects of fluoridation, but no reliable studies have proven the negative effects. Decay rates dropped by 60% in the first 10 years after fluoridated water was first introduced in Australia. The one possible side-effect seems to be enamel fluorosis. If a child receives too much fluoride during the early stages of tooth development, defects (stains) in the tooth enamel can occur. This is visible as chalky white specks and lines, or pitted and brown stained enamel.
You can avoid over-fluoridation by not swallowing toothpaste, mouth rinses or other topical supplements. Check with us about the proper dosage. Contact your local health department or state EPA if you want to ensure that the level of fluoride in your drinking water is at a safe level.
Children are more vulnerable to fluorosis because their teeth are more sensitive. They also are at greater risk because they tend to swallow or use too much toothpaste.
The fluoridation of water helps prevent tooth decay. That is indisputable. The fluoride makes your teeth harder and decreases the concentration of cavity-causing bacteria. This effect is especially important for people who cannot afford expensive dental work. Of course, fluoride alone cannot stop tooth decay. You need to develop a good oral hygiene regime and then stick to it. A healthy diet is also very important.
Fluoride is derived from the element fluorine. Fluoride is absorbed easily into your teeth’s enamel. When fluoride is ingested, the blood supply distributes it through the body where it can be deposited in bones and hard tissues like teeth. Fluoride in teeth promotes remineralisation, which aids in repairing decay before damage is even visible.
<diagram showing how fluoride strengthens teeth>
Click on the link below to read some interesting facts from the Australian Dental Association.
Australian Dental Association – Fluoride & Your Dental Health
How do I get fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance, and more than likely, you are ingesting it by the water you drink, and many of the foods that you eat. Many toothpastes and mouth rinses contain ‘topical’ fluoride, and are expectorated or rinsed from the mouth without swallowing. Dentists recommend brushing with fluoride toothpaste after every meal, combined with a routine flossing and regular dental checkups.
The controversy and the scientific response
Several concerns have been raised about fluoridation. They are:
Concern: Fluoridation is carried out with non-pharmaceutical grade sodium fluoride. It is claimed that this is contaminated with hexafluorosilicic acid which can cause cancer.
Response: Hexafluorosilicic acid is actually one of the fluorine compounds used to fluoridate water. Comprehensive studies have found no link between this compound and an increased incidence of cancer.
Concern: There are claims that much of Europe does not fluoridate their water, but their children’s teeth are just as good.
Response: Teeth health can be maintained without fluoridated water as long as a fluoride toothpaste or fluoride rinse is used twice daily. Putting the fluoride in the water is just an easier way to deliver it.
Concern: Detractors also quote a 1944 American Dental Association editorial in which it is suggested that water containing 1.2 to 3.0 ppm fluorine can cause bone disorders.
Response: Studies have found no relationship between bone disorders like osteoporosis and the levels of fluoride found in drinking water.
Concern: It is not possible to control individual doses.
Response: It is true that not everyone will drink the same volume of water, but there is no need for concern, although only tiny amounts of fluoride toothpaste should be used with young children.
Concern: The fluoridation program has not been carefully monitored.
Response: In response to increasing public concerns, there has been an increase in the extent of the monitoring program. Extensive data has been gathered, none of which has confirmed the views put forward by those against fluoridation.