You’ve probably heard many myths about fluoride: It’s toxic, fluoride is bad for children, fluoride causes cancer. So, what’s the deal? Is fluoride actually harmful, or are the myths all hype?
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a natural mineral found throughout the earth’s crust and also contained in some food and water supplies. To protect communities, fluoride is also often added to drinking water. Studies have repeatedly shown that when this occurs, tooth decay in the region decreases. For this reason, fluoride in water supplies has been endorsed by the American Dental Association, the World Health Organization, and the American Medical Association.
Fluoride is also added to many toothpastes and applied topically at a dental office to strengthen tooth enamel and help prevent decay by bacteria. When fluoride is absorbed into the enamel, it repairs it by replenishing lost calcium and phosphorous in a process called remineralization. In addition, fluoride decreases the effectiveness of bacteria, which, in turn, decreases cavities. Not only is the use of fluoride recommended by dental professions, toothpastes with fluoride enjoy the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance.
What Are the Most Common Myths About Fluoride?
The most common myths we hear about fluoride are the following:
- Fluoride is dangerous, because it’s toxic. Fluoride is a chemical, and like any chemical, it can be toxic in high doses. However, those doses are very high. By way of example, consider the fact that the average recommended daily intake of water is just three liters. To even begin feeling ill from fluoride, you’d need to drink more than ten liters of water!
- Fluoride causes cancer. A U.S. Public Health Service review of the available research concluded that, “there is no credible evidence of an association between either natural fluoride or adjusted fluoride in drinking water and human cancer.” Furthermore, fluoridated drinking water has not been shown to cause or worsen conditions of the thyroid, kidney, heart, or other glands/organs.
- Fluoride isn’t safe for children. Actually, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Dental Association (ADA), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) all agree that fluoride is safe for kids. The ADA does note, however, that younger children should not consume too much fluoride. As long as they are following guidelines regarding toothpaste use and other products that contain fluoride, they should be fine.
So worry not! The fluoride in your water and toothpaste is not dangerous. On the contrary, fluoride supports oral health and decreases your chances of tooth decay.
Our final thoughts on this issue? We recommend that both you and your children brush with a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste twice a day, floss daily, and visit us twice a year for a checkup. We also recommend a fluoride varnish treatment be applied for both children AND adults a minimum of once per year during your routine dental visits. That’s the recipe for a bright, healthy smile!