Could Fluoride Actually Be Ruining Your Teeth?

Find out if there really is too much of a good thing.

You know from visiting your dentist twice a year that fluoride is essential to keeping your mouth healthy. The mineral protects teeth from decay, leading to fewer cavities and less pain. While all water contains fluoride naturally, it’s not in a high enough amount to prevent decay, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)—so to make sure we all get enough of the stuff, the U.S. has been adding fluoride to its water supply for the last 70 years.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced new recommendations for lowering the level of added fluoride in water from a range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter to 0.7 milligrams, explaining that this is the optimal level for water fluoridation in community water systems. “Having optimal fluoridated drinking water has been shown to reduce tooth decay in children and adults,” says Sally Cram, a dentist in Washington, D.C., and a spokesperson for the American Dental Association (ADA).
The previous recommendation had been in place for 50 years. So why the change now—and should you be worried that you’ve actually been getting too much fluoride?

Here’s the deal: The HHS issued this recommendation because our lifestyle has changed, says Cram. We now get fluoride from so many other sources—toothpaste, mouth rinse, professionally applied gels, and prescription fluoride supplements—that we don’t need quite as much in our drinking water to adequately protect our teeth from decay.
Still, you really have no reason to freak out about getting too much fluoride, says Cram, since it won't have any negative health effects on your teeth. Not getting enough, though, could leave you vulnerable to dental issues.

That being said, if you have a child under 8 years old, you may have a reason to be concerned: They can develop something called dental fluorosis, which appears as white spots on the tooth surface, says Shawn Sadri, a cosmetic dentist in New York City. However, this is purely cosmetic and won't actually cause any dental health issues, says Cram. In fact, this only happens to a kid’s baby teeth—once their permanent chompers break through the gums, fluorosis is no longer an issue.
Here’s how fluoride does its job: "It works by stopping or even reversing the tooth decay process," says Sadri. "Tooth decay is caused by certain bacteria in the mouth. When a person eats sugar or even carbohydrates, these bacteria produce acid that removes minerals from the surface of the tooth. Fluoride helps remineralize tooth surfaces and prevents cavities from forming."

Want to make sure you’re getting enough fluoride? Communication with your dentist is key. “When you go to your dentist, have a chat, and he or she can make recommendations based on your personal history,” says Cram. “You may have different needs than someone who always has cavities, and they can provide you with that information.”

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Health Magazine: Could Fluoride Actually Be Ruining Your Teeth?
Could Fluoride Actually Be Ruining Your Teeth?
Find out if there really is too much of a good thing.
Health Magazine
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