PRINTED IN TCI WEEKLY NEWS
May 12th, 2012
It was recently brought to my attention by a patient that there could be some misunderstanding about the benefits of fluoride in relation to dental health. Most people have heard of fluoride in toothpaste but maybe do not know why it is there and what it actually does. I wanted to clarify the facts to help you make the best choices for the health of your teeth and that of your family.What is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in many foods and in water in varying amounts (dependent upon where you live).
How does fluoride protect teeth?
Fluoride helps fight tooth decay in 2 ways-
1) Systemically (through the body) by changing the structure of developing enamel, making it more resistant to acid attack. These structural changes occur when the adult teeth are forming in the gum which is from birth up to the age of around 7 yrs.
2) Topically (in the mouth) by helping to repair enamel where acid attack has already started, so reversing early decay, and by reducing plaque bacteria’s ability to produce acid.
Concerns about the safety of fluoride
There have been some concerns that fluoride can be linked to a variety of health conditions including bone cancer and kidney disease. However, extensive research has found no evidence to support these concerns and scientists agree that the correct amount of fluoride has a significant benefit to oral health whilst causing no harm to overall health.
There is a condition called fluorosis that can occur when developing teeth are exposed to too much fluoride. Mild fluorosis is not a serious condition but is irreversible. It is characterized by very fine pearly white lines or flecking on the surface of the teeth.
Fluoride in drinking water
In some countries fluoride is added to the tap (drinking water). This is a government and/ or local health authority decision that occurs in parts of Canada and USA, and areas of Europe including parts of UK. Fluoride is not contained in city water on Provo or in any of the locally produced bottled water. Fluoride is likely to be contained in water taken directly from wells on the islands and historically fluorosis has been seen in people who regularly drank well water from some areas.
The expert’s view on fluoride
The American, British and Canadian Dental Associations all agree about the benefits of fluoride for dental health. All of the American Dental Association approved toothpastes contain fluoride and the Canadian Dental Association describes fluorides in dentistry as ‘one of the most successful preventative health measures in the history of healthcare’.
Fluoride and children
You should commence gently brushing your child’s teeth with a fluoride toothpaste as soon as the teeth are fully though the gum. This is proven to be more effective at preventing cavities than brushing with water alone or a non-fluoride toothpaste. Children’s toothpastes are available that contain less fluoride than adult toothpastes and often have a less strong flavor. Read the packaging and if in doubt your dentist or pharmacist can advise you.
Adhere to the following guidelines-
– Children up to 3 years of age should use a toothpaste with a fluoride level of at least 1,000 ppm (parts per million)
– After 3 yrs, the child should use toothpaste with a fluoride level of 1350- 1500ppm.
– After the age of around 7yrs an adult toothpaste is suitable to use.
– The amount of toothpaste that your child uses is important. Up to the age of 3 yrs, a smear (approximately the size of a grain of rice) is sufficient. Between 3 & 6yrs a pea-sized amount is recommended.
– Children should be supervised when brushing their teeth and encouraged to spit out the toothpaste after brushing.
For children growing up in TCI and drinking bottled water I generally recommend a fluoride supplement up to the age of around 7 years. Ask your dentist for advice when you take your child for their regular dental check-up.