Fluoride is a mineral that is found in rock, air, soil, plants and water. It exists naturally in nearly all water supplies.
Doctors have been taught for decades that the benefit of Fluoride is preventing decay. This is based on research done in the 1920’s which revealed that when fluoride becomes chemically incorporated in the tooth, it makes the enamel more resistant to demineralization – thus preventing the decay process.
So why would I choose not to use fluoride in my practice or supplemental fluoride at home (as much as possible anyway)?
In short, sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad for you.
In the 1960’s, Fluoride was added as a supplement to pretty much all public water supplies in the USA. It’s also in many products. It is likely in your toothpaste, and you get some every time you drink juice from concentrate or get a coffee at Starbucks.
Lately, I’ve been seeing some patients (particularly younger patients) who suffer from fluorosis – damage to their enamel from too much fluoride. Ironically, too much fluoride can actually mottle and weaken teeth.
Paul J. Vankevich, an assistant professor of general dentistry at the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, explains:
The spike in the prevalence of fluorosis could be a result of the proliferation of fluoridated products on the market today: over-the-counter toothpastes and rinses, fluoride supplements and topical treatments applied during dental visits.
In modern life, I feel there is enough fluoride around us at all times. In my opinion, addressing the actual causes of decay (like diet or health issues) is far more important than an unchecked amount of fluoride.
In fact, some studies suggest that too much fluoride can lead to an increased risk of developing hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid gland. Currently 4.6% of the adult population has hypothyroidism, according to the National Institutes of health.
Ultimately, it is really up to the patient and their doctor when to establish the levels of fluoride they take. It shouldn’t be up to the dentist to determine if it is safe for you.