Should fluoride be added to water supplies?

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New research has found that adding extra fluoride to water is perfectly safe. Following this, organisations are calling for local authorities across the United Kingdom to seize the moment and started pumping extra fluoride into our water supplies. This would enable us to enjoy the many benefits of fluoride with the knowledge that there won’t be any negative side effects.

fluoride in water supply teeth health

We Need to Talk About Fluoride

Why all the fuss about fluoride? Well, research has shown that by adding fluoride into the water supply of a city, it’s possible to decrease habitants levels of tooth decay by a whopping 50% (Hovius, 2014). This is why dentists usually suggest opting for a fluoride based tooth paste as well as various other fluoride based tips which we’ll discuss a little later on.

 

For those of you that like to know the ‘how’ in the equation, here’s what’s so special about fluoride. It is heavily involved in a process called ‘remineralisation’ which effectively helps to decelerate the rate that cavities form. The process is the opposite of tooth decay which can be caused as a result of demineralisation, where vital minerals are leaked from the tooth. Remineralisation acts in the opposite way. It deposits minerals back onto those areas of the tooth that demineralisation is occurring – thus healing the tooth.

Research has shown that when fluoride is in the environment of your teeth, it actually assists in this process. That’s why dentists and organisations such as the Oral Health Foundation are so keen to back the use of fluoride.

 

What fluoride research has been used?

Very precise research was conducted by the National Toxicology Program based in the US where around 80% of water is pumped with added fluoride. The worked with years of analysis and found that there is ‘no link between elevated levels of fluoride and cognitive learning deficits‘.

Fluoride is naturally occurring and actually found in numerous foods as well as in all drinking water. The issue is that it is only found in these sources at levels too low to aid a persons dental health. The biggest improvement in oral health in the UK is said to have been due to the addition of fluoride into toothpastes across the country. This type of advancement could be emulated with the inception of water fluoridation schemes.

We’ve discussed already how fluoride can help protect the teeth against tooth decay but that’s not it’s only super power. It even lowers the levels of acid that the bacteria on the teeth can produce. This paper is not the only research that has gone into the benefits of water fluoridation. There has in fact been more than 70 years of investigations finding a wealth of knowledge pointing to the conclusion that it’s use could reduce decay by 40 to 60 percent.

At present there aren’t plans to introduce water fluoridation into the UK but new research and countless organisations backing the change would mean that surely it’s not too far away.

 

What are the downsides to fluoridation?

As with every side of the story there is a counterargument. 

  • It is the choice of each individual water supplier as to whether or not they want to add fluoride. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a maximum amount of 4 mg/l of fluoride for human consumption. If higher levels are added to water then there can be the development of bone disease.
  • Fluorosis can still be an issue at the maximum levels. This is where the teeth can become pitted or browned, especially in young children with developing teeth. Around 10-15% of young children who consume the recommended dose off fluoride will suffer from some level of fluorosis. This is one of the biggest issues with the initiative.
  • Although water fluoridation has been given credit for the increased dental health of it’s consumers, there has also been an overall increase in dental health and oral health products at the same time which should be given some of the attribution also.

 

How can you optimise your fluoride levels in the meantime?

Here’s some top tips to help you get the most out of your newfound love for fluoride.

 

1. Use a fluoride based toothpaste.

Most good toothpastes nowadays have fluoride as a key ingredient. Look out for that and make sure yours has it too. But…

 

2. Don’t rinse out your mouth after you brush your teeth.

So many people do the right thing… almost. They choose that good quality fluoride toothpaste and brush their teeth coating them with a protective remineralising layer. But next they take a sip of water and rinse off all that protection and spit it in the sink! You’re not expected to walk around with toothpaste residue in your mouth either though. Once you’re done brushing your teeth you can swish around the residue in your mouth and spit it out. BUT… don’t then rinse it out with water or you lose a lot of the added benefits of the fluoride.

 

3. The mouthwash dilemma.

Most mouthwashes do very little for your teeth. Sure they may ‘freshen up’ your breath but many often contain acidic colouring that you don’t really want touching your teeth anyway. Some Mouthwashes are good for gum disease such as Corsidol. The best rule to follow with mouthwash is to first get advice from your dentist at your next appointment and then if you do choose to add it into your oral health regime then make sure that you use the mouthwash before you brush your teeth and not after. Rinsing with mouthwash after brushing your teeth is a bad idea because of the note above in which we discussed how you’ll just end up rinsing off all that fluoride! However, there is one exception to the rule. If your mouthwash is a fluoride based mouthwash then it is fine to rinse with this post brushing as you are still coating your gnashers with a fluoride base.

 

For more details about your oral health check out our hygienist services.

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