Why use fluoride?
Toothfriendly International recommends the use of fluoride-containing products as an effective measure for preventing caries. A number of studies demonstrate that children who start using products with fluoride from an early age have fewer cavities than those who don’t. The use of fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, and reduces the harmful effects of plaque. Fluoride also makes the entire tooth structure more resistant to decay and promotes remineralization, which aids in repairing early decay before the damage is even visible.
While the use of fluoridated products is highly recommendable, fluoridation of water is the most cost-effective method. It provides the greatest benefit to people who can least afford preventive and restorative dentistry.
What are the risks?
In general, fluoride consumption is safe. Health risks associated with fluoridation are mainly related to misuse and overdoses. Dental fluorosis is a condition caused by an excessive intake of fluorides characterized by yellow or brown stains on the teeth.
Some advocacy groups also publish reports on the hazards of fluoridation. The activists point to toxicity warnings on toothpaste, concluding that any substance needing such careful dosage must be dangerous. WHO states that fluoride has both beneficial and detrimental effects on human health. A high concentration of fluoride in drinking water increases the prevalence of dental fluorosis. In terms of general health, in communities where drinking water and foodstuffs are excessively high in fluoride, skeletal fluorosis and bone fracture are the most relevant adverse effects.
However, the fact remains that in many countries the dramatic reductions in tooth decay in the past 30 years is due to fluoridation. When used appropriately, fluoride is both safe and effective in preventing caries.