What are the facts about fluoride?

Fluoride is a substance that is added to most toothpaste and dentists recommend that it be used by all adults. However, there is still some controversy about its use and an increasing number of toothpastes are now available without fluoride, not to mention the various campaigns to stop fluoride being added to tap water.

Fluoride has long been seen as a useful part of dentistry because it actively strengthens the enamel which coats teeth. Enamel is a hard substance which helps defend teeth from the attacks of plaque which otherwise would cause cavities to form and the nerves inside teeth to be interfered with. The use of fluoride has been shown to reduce instances of tooth decay by between forty and sixty per cent by strengthening the enamel on teeth.

Fluoride can be found in many toothpastes and is also added to the water supply so that we can consume fluoride when we drink from the tap. Despite the benefits for enamel and oral hygiene, fluoride is a controversial issue for some. There have been a number of claims over the years that fluoride is actually harmful to humans. It is true that a condition called dental fluorosis can affect young children who consume too much fluoride but this is extremely rare as the quantities needed to bring on the condition are very large.

Most experts agree that fluoride is not dangerous to human beings and around three hundred million people consume fluoride every day in the tap water they drink. However, it is advised by dentists that the very young do not use fluoride toothpaste but for anyone over two years old, fluoride has been consistently shown to be extremely beneficial in strengthening teeth.

Fluoride is available as a supplement for those whose tap water contains a lower quantity of fluoride. Dentists recommend that people don't restrict themselves to drinking only bottled water as this doesn't contain fluoride.

Ultimately whether you choose to use fluoride is your decision and the proliferation of fluoride free products now widely available means that you really do have the choice. But remember that dentists recommend its use and brushing with a fluoride enriched toothpaste has been proved to increase the strength of your teeth and mean that dental decay is less likely to occur.