We’ve all heard about fluoride but, for most of us, awareness starts and stops with man-made products like toothpaste or additions to water supplies. These realities often go hand in hand with an ingrained belief that fluoride isn’t good for us. In reality, however, this naturally occurring mineral is added to toothpaste and other such products for one reason and one reason only – it’s fantastic for preventing tooth decay!
By improving the balance between mineral gain and loss in tooth enamel, as well as inhibiting the activity of potentially harmful bacteria, fluoride can work wonders for dental health. These are facts that even the World Health Organization has confirmed. But, with internet rumors and no one quite sure what to believe, many of us have taken a no-fluoride stance that’s keeping us frustratingly shy of these benefits.
While too much fluoride can be a problem, potential benefits outweigh any unproven risks. Here, we’re going to prove that by debunking the most popular fluoride myths with facts what we know to be true.
Myth # 1 Drinking fluoridated water can cause fluorosis
Dental fluorosis causes changes to the appearance of tooth enamel and is typically caused by over-exposure to excessive levels of fluoride during the first eight years of life. However, drinking fluoridated water, which contains just 0.7 parts of fluoride per million (in accordance with 2015 CDC recommendations,) is incredibly unlikely to cause this condition. What’s more, even the few mild cases of existing fluorosis do not impact how tooth enamel functions, while we do know that fluoride, on the whole, can drastically reduce risks of tooth decay.
Myth # 2 – Fluoride puts children at risk
Because fluorosis typically arises due to complications in the development of tooth enamel before the age of eight, many parents worry that a high fluoride intake puts their children at risk. In terms of water intake, however, this concern is entirely unfounded due to the restrictions touched on above. In fact, a 2010 study revealed that children who drank fluoridated water were far less likely to experience tooth decay as much as 40-50 years later! In terms of toothpaste, brands containing between 1,350ppm and 1,500ppm of fluoride are safe to use when spat out, and actually recommended, from around the age of six months.
Myth # 3 – Fluoridated water increases the risk of cancer/autism/etc.
Fluoride in water supplies has been blamed for causing everything from cancer through to autism, diabetes, and beyond. But, there are no studies to back these claims, while research shows time and again that fluoride does not cause cancer or other serious conditions. This, alongside very much proven dental benefits, has even seen fluoride endorsed by the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Myth # 4 – Europe doesn’t use fluoridated water so neither should the US
Less widespread usage of fluoridated water in Europe is even cited as proof of its potential damage but, in reality, fluoridation isn’t standard in Europe for purely technical reasons. What’s more, millions of people in Europe still enjoy the benefits of fluoride through fluoridation milk programs and fluoridated salt (as used by around 70 million people in Switzerland and Germany – two countries with the world’s lowest rates of tooth decay.)
Myth # 5 – Water fluoridation is incredibly expensive
Many people are also worried that water fluoridation is an expensive process, but the reality is that this is generally considered to be one of the cheapest ways to address tooth decay, as confirmed by a 2003 study in Colorado. What’s more, once in place, water fluoridation is inexpensive to maintain, generally costing between 40 cents and $2.70 per person each year. It’s also worth noting that experts believe every $1 spent on this cause can lead to savings of an average $32 in dental costs. A fact which, incidentally, has been proven time and time again through various studies across the country.
Myth # 6 – Fluoride isn’t natural
Failing all else, doubters worry that, because it’s actively added into water sources, fluoride is not natural, and we therefore shouldn’t consume it. But, as discussed at the start of this article, fluoride is very much a natural mineral which occurs in all water sources of its own right, just not in high enough amounts to protect tooth enamel. With that in mind, fluoridisation (typically using fluoride derived from phosphorus rock,) simply increases those existing levels to ensure the dental health benefits that are quite plain to see.