There’s been an ongoing debate for years on whether or not you should incorporate fluoride into your oral care routine. The relationship between fluoride and dental health has been heavily researched for over 100 years. Unfortunately, studies have conflicted with one another, and dentists have clashed on recommendations. So, should you be using toothpaste or mouthwash with fluoride? And does fluoride truly help protect your smile?
The answer is truthfully a personal one, but there are some things you should take into consideration when deciding. Here’s what you need to know when making up your mind.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in soil, water, and air. It’s also found in some foods and beverages. Research has found that fluoride can greatly help dental health by strengthening the tooth enamel, which helps to prevent cavities and tooth decay. Because of this finding, fluoride is often added to community water supplies and oral care products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash.
Is Fluoride Safe to Use?
Even though fluoride is a naturally occurring compound, it can still cause side effects when ingested in large doses. The biggest possible risk when consumed in large amounts is dental fluorosis. Dental fluorosis is discoloration or pitting on the teeth. It can appear as white specks or brown spots on the tooth’s surface. The main concern is found in young children who have permanent teeth still coming in.
However, when controlled, community water fluoridation and topical use (oral care products) have been deemed a safe and effective way to promote good oral health and prevent tooth decay. Because dental products are usually not swallowed, they cause less concern for possible health issues. In addition, the American Dental Association (ADA) recognizes the use of fluoride as safe and effective for dental health and in preventing tooth decay for both children and adults.
How Does Fluoride Affect Your Teeth?
Fluoride works by making your tooth enamel more resistant to sugar and bacteria. Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in your mouth produce acid that eats away at your enamel. This causes your tooth to demineralize and become weakened, leaving you more vulnerable to developing cavities.
Saliva helps to disrupt acid production, washing away lingering bacteria. When fluoride is mixed into your saliva from sources, such as water, toothpaste, or mouthwash, they work together to replenish the calcium and phosphate ions within your enamel. This is known as remineralization and is a vital process for healthy and strong teeth.
Should Children Use Fluoride?
Like with adults, fluoride is considered safe and effective for children when consumed in small doses. However, young children do have the tendency to swallow oral care products, such as toothpaste. This is why it is important that young children be supervised when brushing their teeth so to prevent ingestion if possible or to limit the amount of toothpaste used.
Fluoride benefits children in two ways. When young children consume small amounts of fluoride via food and beverages, the mineral enters their bloodstream and helps to strengthen their primary teeth that have not yet broken through the gums. Once the teeth begin to emerge, fluoride continues to rebuild weakened enamel. The ADA recommends a smear (the size of a grain of rice) of fluoride toothpaste for babies with an erupted tooth all the way until three years old. For children between the ages of 3 and 6, a pea-sized amount is recommended.
Protect Your Smile with Good Oral Hygiene
A healthy smile starts with good oral hygiene. Whether you feel comfortable using fluoride in your dental products or not, you must have good dental habits to have a healthy sparkling smile. Brushing and flossing daily and visiting your dentist regularly will help keep your enamel and teeth in good shape.
And for added protection, you may want to consider adding fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash to your dental routine to protect your smile. Do your research and decide what is right for you and that you’re comfortable with. If you’re on the fence, discuss your options and safety with your dentist. Contact the team at VIPcare Dental today and get all your fluoride questions answered.