About Dental Fluoride

Do I need fluoride?

For decades, fluoride has been held in high regard by the dental community as an important mineral that is absorbed into and strengthens tooth enamel, and thereby helping to prevent decay of tooth structures. Fluoride has been proven to be effective topically as well as through ingestion, in safe doses. Water fluoridation in the proper amounts (0.7-1.2 parts per million [ppm]) has been accepted as a safe, effective, and inexpensive method of preventing tooth decay. In nearly every U.S. community, public drinking supplies are supplemented with sodium fluoride because the practice is acknowledged as safe and effective in fighting cavities. Fluoride has come under some recent scrutiny by new media, some of whom question how effective it is in preventing cavities. The American Dental Association (ADA) has maintained that consistent use of bottled water could result in individuals missing the benefits of optimally fluoridated water. Moreover, the ADA has held that some home water treatment systems change fluoridated water supplies for the worse.

This link contains a scientific report (8/17/01) of fluoride recommendations by the CDC/MMWR Committee.

Can swallowing fluoride be harmful?

Yes, if the amount of fluoride ingested is excessive. Young children should be supervised when brushing and taught to spit out, rather than swallow toothpaste. Excessive amounts of fluoride is irritating to your stomach, and can be toxic. If high does of fluoride are ingested on a regular basis during the tooth forming years, a child may face the condition called enamel fluorosis. Too much fluoride can result in defects in tooth enamel. Most cases of fluorosis are mild and will appear as tiny white specks or streaks that are often unnoticeable. However, in severe cases of enamel fluorosis, the appearance of the teeth is marred by discoloration or brown markings. The enamel may be pitted, rough, and hard to clean. Fluoride prevents tooth decay. It is an important part of helping your child keep a healthy smile for a lifetime. Getting enough, but not too much, fluoride can be easily accomplished with the help of your dentist. Today’s fluoride varnishes not only remain active on the surface of teeth longer than the fluoride gels and foams of our past, but if swallowed, varnish does not break down before excretion, which makes it more safe. Varnish is safe for all ages, include infants.

Is my water fluoridated?

A feature called “My Water’s Fluoride” allows consumers to check out basic information about their water system, including the number of people served by the system and the target fluoridation level. Optimal levels recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service and CDC for drinking water range from 0.7 parts per million (ppm) for warmer climates to 1.2 ppm for cooler climates to account for the tendency for people to drink more water in warmer climates. In Pinellas County, there are numerous sources for water. Water supplied by Pinellas County Utilities as well as the Dunedin and Tarpon Springs water systems are optimized, although Lake Tarpon Village is not. If your water is below optimal fluoride levels, your dentist may prescribe fluoride drops for your children. Supplemental topical fluoride in the form of toothpastes, varnishes and rinses are almost always recommended.