Why fluoride is the ‘miracle’ mineral your teeth need

It’s critical for staving off tooth decay and best of all, most of us can get it straight out of the tap. There are many reasons fluoride should make you smile.

Have you ever heard people talk about fluoride in the water?

Proclaimed as a miracle mineral, fluoride has been added to our drinking water in Australia since the 1950s and is credited with significantly reducing tooth decay.

Dentists have been praising fluoride’s benefits for years, yet, many people still don’t know what it is.

So, to celebrate National Toothache Day on February 9, we take a look at fluoride and how it’s protecting your pearly whites.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a natural mineral found in rock deposits, salts and in some water sources.

In small doses it is undetectable by humans, but according to Australian Dental Association oral health committee chair Dr Michael Foley, it makes a big difference to our teeth.

“It reduces tooth decay, and most importantly it’s safe,” Dr Foley says.

In fact, some studies have proven fluoride reduces cavities in 25 per cent of the population.

Meanwhile, Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council found that water fluoridation decreases tooth decay by between 26 and 44 per cent in children, and 27 per cent of adults.

How fluoride works

The key to fluoride is that it helps protect, while also repairing the damage already done, according to the dental association.

It does this by stopping the process of demineralisation – where the enamel on our teeth begins to dissolve – making them more resistant to decay.

It also helps weakened enamel recover and slows the activity of bacteria that create acid.

Fluoride helps reduce the dental bill 

If a healthier smile is not reason enough to embrace fluoride, then consider the savings you can make at the dentist.

“The substantial costs of fillings, root canal treatments, extractions, dentures, crowns, bridges and implants all start with tooth decay and Australians spend more than $10 billion each year on dental care,” Dr Foley says

“This is in part because many older Australians didn’t grow up with fluoride.”

Who has access to fluoride in drinking water?

Some 89 per cent of Australian communities have access to fluoridated water.

However, some rural communities or families using bottled water are “missing out”, says Dr Foley.

For these people he recommends using a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day, or head to a dental specialist to discuss supplements that can help.

Is fluoride bad for you?

Despite the undisputed benefits, Michael says “claims by small minority groups” about the adverse effects of fluoride are still circulated online.

These include incorrect suggestions that it doesn’t help your teeth, is harmful for babies when mixed with infant formula and causes cancer.

These myths have been debunked and in fluoride is considered perfectly safe in small doses.

Should you take more fluoride?

While dental experts support putting fluoride in the water in small quantities, it is true that taking too much of a good thing can be bad.

Excessive exposure to fluoride causes abdominal pains, nausea and in extreme doses could calcify your bones.

So, while it’s safe in small amounts don’t go increasing your intake unless directed by a dental health professional.

Written by Alex White.