“Fluoride? Good or bad?”

Fluoride treatment is effective with preventing cavities and tooth decay. As a dentist, this is what I have recommended to people who I see can benefit from fluoride treatment’s ability to remineralize and desensitize your teeth. However, I must confess there is risk involved with using fluoride due to its potentially damaging systematic effects.

Fluorine, the ionized form of fluoride is highly active to phosphate ions in your body (where calcium is found in large amounts – like the bones and teeth). In teeth, fluorine combines with the inorganic compound apatite, to form a harder, less water-soluble fluoride salt, which resists the acidic erosion of some oral environments. A pregnant mother’s fluorine intake affects the primary teeth of the fetus. Fluorine intake from fluoridated water (or a fluoride supplement) can also affect teeth in child development of up to around age 8 (making teeth harder and more resistant to decay). Unfortunately, excessive amounts of fluoride can lead to fluorosis, which causes white, brown or black stains (and even pitting) of the teeth, and/or brittle, aching bones and joints. An even darker fact regarding fluoride: many researchers believe it is carcinogenic. Japanese research has shown fluoride as being capable of transforming healthy cells into cancer cells. Additionally, the New Jersey Department of Health has found that young men exposed to fluoridated water have a much higher occurrence rate of bone cancer. Other studies performed by private corporations (Procter & Gamble in particular) have shown fluoride used to fluoridate public water sources significantly increases the chances of genetic damage in its drinkers.

So use fluoride with caution – it is beneficial for cavity prevention and treating tooth sensitivity, but it is for topical use only – do not ingest! Children especially need special care from their parents with undertaking any type of fluoride treatment, no fluoride toothpaste or fluoride should ever be swallowed. If fluoride use is recommended by your doctor or dental professional, calcium supplements (or food rich in calcium like dairy products) are recommended to ensure your bones stay strong and balance out any potential loss of calcium due to fluorine exposure.

There are alternatives for remineralizing your tooth structure, such as calcium phosphate and calcium carbonate. If you have any concerns, speak with your dental professional. Remember, the best way to prevent tooth decay is to eat sensibly and keep your mouth sparkling clean by properly brushing and flossing after every meal.

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