Fluoride Pros and Cons

Fluoride Pros and Cons

Fluoride Pros and Cons

Benefits and Disadvantages of Fluoride on Oral Health from Dr. Marichia Attalla, Leading Nassau County Periodontist

For the last several decades, fluoride has been added to our water, and no one thought much of it. It is widely accepted because it is known that it prevents tooth decay. Your dentist performs concentrated fluoride treatments on your teeth when you go in for your yearly exam. Not fluoridating water is considered bad for public health in most places. But what exactly is fluoride?

What Is Fluoride?

Fluoride is the simplest anion of the element fluorine and is extremely common in the Earth's crust. Fluoride occurs naturally in several minerals and is also naturally present in most ground water in trace amounts. In some areas of the world, it occurs in water in amounts that are recognized as being dangerously high. Anything in a large amount can become dangerous. The amount of fluoride present in fluoridated water is considered safe and also considered to be a beneficial amount for the oral health of the general public.

The Pros of Fluoride

Adding a small amount of fluoride to water that does not have a significant amount in it naturally is one of the simplest ways to improve the dental health of the public. Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel. It helps to prevent many dental maladies such as tooth decay, cavities, and diseases that lead to tooth loss. It can also increase bone density in general.

The American Medical Association endorsed the addition of fluoride to water sources in 1951, and this endorsement was followed shortly in 1953 by an endorsement from the American Dental Association. The idea to do this first came about in the early 20th century with Frederick McKay, who noticed that people living in some areas of the United States had teeth that were more resistant to tooth decay. After a great deal of research, he came to the conclusion that this had to do with the amount of fluoride in the water supplies of the different areas.

Today, about 2/3 of the water in America is fluoridated, which has decreased the amount of cavities people develop overall. This is especially true in underprivileged populations that do not receive regular dental care. It is very cost effective and much more affordable for the government than the dental care costs of filling cavities. It is estimated to have saved around $39 billion dollars in dental care over the last ten years alone. The Center for Disease Control named water fluoridation as one of the ten greatest public health achievements.

The Cons of Fluoride

Recently, a number of questions have arisen about the actual safety of fluoridation as well as some ethical concerns. Some people believe the government should not force fluoride on the population, and that people should have a choice about whether or not their water is fluoridated. Others believe the fluoride in water is now superfluous because almost all toothpaste today contains an adequate amount of fluoride.

Some studies have indicated that fluoride may actually weaken the bones and possibly connective tissues in joints. It can also cause a condition called fluorosis, which is largely cosmetic. Fluorosis stains the teeth, making them an unattractive brown color, but it does not cause any detrimental physical problems.

Another recent study by the National Institutes of Mental Health suggested that fluoride-damaged teeth could be linked to psychological and behavioral problems. Fluoride may also play a role in some protein digestion and protein intolerance issues. It has been linked to stomach and abdominal discomforts such as cramps and indigestion

 It is believed that many people actually suffer from persistent, mysterious stomach maladies associated with fluoride, but few make the connection between their water and their discomfort. Proponents of fluoride argue that the amount of fluoride needed for these negative effects is much higher than the concentrations present in fluoridation.

The Conclusion

The known benefits of fluoridation largely outweigh the possibly negative effects. It helps millions of lower-income children, in particular, maintain better oral health and has cut back on preventable tooth decay. Decisions to fluoridate a community's water are currently made on state and sometimes local levels. Not everywhere in the United States has fluoridated water, and even if your water is fluoridated, it is not that difficult to avoid if you are extremely passionate about the issue.

Please contact Dr. Marichia Attalla for a free consultation regarding any questions or concerns about your periodontal health.
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