Is fluoride bad for you?

We always get told that fluoride is good for our teeth, but how good is it, really?

Fluoride is commonly added to toothpastes and water supplies.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a mineral which is commonly found in rocks, air, soil, water (fresh and sea water) and plants.

The mineral plays a vital role in the mineralisation of our bones and teeth, making sure they stay hard and strong. Around 99% of our body’s fluoride is stored in our bones and teeth.

Fluoride is commonly added to water supplies in countries, as it is a good prevention method to cavities and dental erosion.

Fluoride prevents dental cavities:

Fluoride can help prevent tooth decay in many ways, by fighting back the effects of bad bacteria and acids inside your mouth.

The main contributor to tooth erosion are the acids created by the bacteria inside plaque breaking down sugars. These acids are the culprit, as they cause demineralisation of our tooth’s enamel, leading to cavities.

However, fluoride may help by decreasing the effects of the acid, by remineralising your teeth and strengthening enamel. Fluoride is also key in reducing acid production as it interferes with the bad bacteria.

Fluoride best prevents cavities by being directly applied to your teeth, usually by a dentist.

Good sources of fluoride, include:

  • Fluoridated water: In Australia and many other countries, we have fluoride added to our supply of fresh drinking water.
  • Groundwater: Naturally contains fluoride in low to high amounts. In some areas, fluoridation present in groundwater is dangerously high.
  • Certain foods: Some foods are processed using fluoridated water and others naturally take it from the soil.
  • Dental care products: There is a wide range of fluoride containing dental products, such as toothpastes, mouthwashes and gels.
  • Fluoride supplements: In the form of drops and tablets, these supplements are only recommended to people living in areas without water fluoridation.

Water fluoridation benefits:

Firstly, water fluoridation is argued by many to be unhealthy and controversial. However, it is safe, and strictly monitored to ensure only safe amounts are added only to the drinking supply.

Fluoridated drinking water is key in reducing discomfort, repairing weak spots on your teeth and reducing tooth decay.

It helps both children and adults achieve a healthy supply of fluoride, to protect their oral health.

In general, this source reduces the costs spent on an individual’s dental care and benefits everyone, especially those from low socioeconomic communities where access to dental services are limited.

Please note the following:

  • Fluoride will not change the taste or smell of water.
  • Most home water filters do not remove fluoride.
  • Boiling water does not change fluoride levels.
  • All Australian major cities have fluoride added, contact your local water authority for more information.

Water fluoridation is safe and effective. It is supported by the leading Australian and international health, medical and dental organisations.

For example, the following support water fluoridation:

  • World Health Organisation
  • Australian Medical Association (AMA)
  • Australian Dental Association (ADA)
  • National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) 

There is no evidence to suggest that water fluoridation causes permanent or serious issues, as it is added in strictly controlled amounts and monitored regularly to ensure the safety of all people.

For more information on water fluoridation in Victoria, please visit this link.

Any side effects or issues with fluoride?

Fluoride is generally safe, as it only becomes a problem if intake becomes excessive.

Dental fluorosis:

Visual changes to your tooth’s enamel, generally white spots as a cosmetic issue; or more severe shown by weakened teeth and brown stains.

This issue only occurs in children younger than eight, while their teeth are beginning to form, if they are exposed to high amounts of fluoride.

Skeletal fluorosis:

Bone disease which is caused by accumulation of fluoride in the bones over years.

Stiffness and joint pain are early symptoms and later symptoms include altered bones structures and calcification of ligaments.

The most common cause is consumption of groundwater, containing high levels of fluoride over a long period of time.

Bone fractures:

Fluoride may weaken bones, raising the risk of bone fractures. However, this is only relevant for people being exposed to very high or very low levels of fluoride. Which is highly unlikely in countries, such as Australia.

Other issues are of no relevance in Australia, as fluoridation levels are strictly monitored, only allowing safe intake levels of fluoride.

The team at City Smiles are dedicated to providing all patients with excellent dental care, so that you can maintain your healthy, bright smile. If you would like to know more about how fluoride treatment can help you, or on another issue, or to book an appointment, please click here.