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Everything you need to know about fluoride

Fluoride has been a hot topic in Canada and in dental offices, and many patients are left wondering what side of the fluoride debate they should be on. Should they use fluoride, or not? As dentists, we are very pro fluoride – it’s a great tool to help with your overall oral health and very safe. However as a patient, we understand the debate on the topic can make the choice of whether or not to use fluoride overwhelming.

So, let’s learn more about it!

What does fluoride do for your teeth?

Fluoride is a mineral found in water (and in some foods) and is found to have positive effects on your oral health as it helps teeth resist decay and it can also help reverse decay. As you chew food every day, minerals get added and get lost from your teeth and their enamel layers when acids such as plaque, bacteria, and sugars attach to the enamel and break it down.

Fluoride repairs the damage to your enamel by essentially redepositing minerals to your enamel layers and therefore, repairs the enamel layer to prevent and reverse tooth decay.

Is it safe to use?

Yes, it’s completely safe to use. Many communities have even added fluoride to public drinking water to benefit the community from tooth decay. You can also get fluoride in toothpastes or mouth rinses.

Your dentist will likely recommend a fluoride treatment based on your individual needs. How often you need fluoride treatment is different for every person depending on the health of your teeth. For some people, fluoride may be recommended at each hygiene appointment (2-3 x per year) if it will benefit the overall health of their teeth. On the other hand, a person with "perfect" teeth will benefit from fluoride only once per year. If a person has had a cavity or cavities treated, fluoride will help greatly in preventing recurring decay (a cavity under or on the margin of the filling) in addition to preventing further cavities.

Fluoride treatments come in a form of a gel, foam, or varnish. These treatments have more fluoride than you’d find in water, toothpaste, or a mouthwash which is why they are administered by your dentist and following your dentist’s recommendation.

What are the risks?

Fluoride is extremely safe to use, even for children. The smallest risk of over fluoride use is dental fluorosis, which is the change in the appearance of teeth due to ingesting a high amount of fluoride in early childhood. This will appear as small white specks on the child’s teeth, which can be discusses with a dentist. The risk of this is very small, but talk to your dentist if you think your child is at risk for tooth decay before using fluoride at home as a treatment.

The debate about water fluoridation in Canada

Fluoride has been used in water sources in Canadian communities for over 60 years. The World Health Organization and Health Canada have been pro-water fluoridation since the discovery of fluoride and remain strong supporters of fluoride to this day. The amount of fluoride in the water is very little and is monitored and controlled safely by the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on drinking water to ensure that the public is ingesting the right amount of fluoride to prevent tooth decay.

However, water fluoridation is not without debate and there are some communities who feel that being forced to drink fluoride in water is against their individual right to choose what goes in their water source. Many cities have wavered on whether or not they were against or pro water fluoridation. For example, Calgary discontinued the practise of fluoridating Calgary’s drinking water in 2011 despite voting for and against adding fluoride since 1957. In 2008 Quebec City voted against fluoride, followed by Waterloo, ON in 2010, Windsor, ON in 2013, and Saint John, NB in 2014. Major cities such as Halifax, Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Edmonton for example still have water fluoridation.

Is fluoride for you?

Science has shown that there is a great benefit to using fluoride to prevent tooth decay, especially in children. As dentists, we highly recommend the use of fluoride to protect your teeth. If you’re unsure if it’s right for you, talk to us today and understand the benefits and impact of fluoride. The best thing you can do is make an informed decision for your oral health.

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