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The Importance of Fluoride
The Importance of Fluoride

There was a time in our (not so distant) past that getting a cavity was almost inevitable. However, over the last few decades, the rates of tooth decay have declined significantly. Fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral, has played a big part in this decline.

What is Fluoride and Why is it Important?

Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in our water sources. Fluoride is known to make the tooth structure stronger, so that teeth are better able to protect themselves from the harsh acids in some of our foods, like certain fruits, juices, and sodas. Fluoride acts to repair the tooth by remineralizing the areas that have already been affected by acid. This allows the tooth to reverse the affects of the early decay process. Fluoride helps the tooth become even stronger and more resistant to decay.

There are two ways to get fluoride. One is called systemic and the other is topical. Systemic fluoridation is the type that comes from drinking water with fluoride in it. Topical fluoridation is applied by Charleston Pediatric Dentists’ staff during a patient’s cleaning appointment. For the ideal level of fluoride, you should receive a mixture of both topical and systemic fluoridation.

Is Fluoride Safe?

Fluoride, like any other nutrient, is safe and effective when used carefully. Since the 1940’s, some communities have been adjusting the level of fluoride in their water systems to increase its effectiveness in the prevention of tooth decay. This process is called fluoridation, and is simply an adjustment of the naturally occurring fluoride levels in the drinking water to meet the optimal fluoride levels recommended by the US Public Health Service of .7 to 1.2 parts per million. It’s easy to think of this as the same type of process used to add extra vitamin D to milk and Vitamin C to orange juice. According to the American Dental Association, community water fluoridation has reduced tooth decay by 20 to 40 percent.

You can find out if your community fluoridates the water by contacting your local water supplier. You may also view the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) fluoridation website “My Water’s Fluoride” for states that participate. Typically, there is only a very small amount of fluoride added to the community water systems.

Why Does My Pediatric Dentist Use Fluoride?

Often the fluoride levels in the water are not enough by themselves to prevent tooth decay. In these cases, Dr. Sherry will suggest fluoride treatments to increase the effectiveness of the fluoride. She may recommend the use of a fluoride toothpaste or mouth rinse, which can either be prescribed or purchased over the counter. Dr. Sherry might also recommend professionally applied fluorides, in the form of a gel or a rinse which our staff will apply to your child’s teeth when your child is here for regular exams. If you live in a non-fluoridated area, you may also be prescribed dietary fluoride supplements.

Fluoride is an important and safe part of our defenses against tooth decay. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that we use to safely strengthen our teeth and protect against tooth damage and decay. Safe, effective, easy. No matter how you describe it, fluoride is a natural and important part of any dental protection plan.

For detailed answers to your questions on fluoride, contact us and refer to this PDF document on flouride from the American Dental Association.