What Is Fluoride? What Does Fluoride Do?
Fluoride, the 13th most abundant element on the earth's crust, is a chemical ion of the element fluorine - fluoride has one extra electron that gives it a negative charge.
Fluoride is found naturally in soil, water, foods, and several minerals, such as fluorapatite and fluorite.
Fluoride concentration in seawater averages 1.3 ppm (parts per million), while in fresh water supplies the natural range is typically between 0.01 to 0.3 ppm. In some parts of the world, fresh water contains fluoride levels which are dangerous and can lead to health problems.
Fluoride is also synthesized in laboratories. Synthesized fluoride is commonly added to drinking water, toothpaste, mouthwashes and various chemical products.
According to Medilexicon's medical dictionary, fluoride is:
"1. A compound of fluorine with a metal, a nonmetal, or an organic radical.
2. The anion of fluorine; inhibits enolase; found in bone and tooth apatite; fluoride has a cariostatic effect; high levels are toxic." Why is fluoride added to drinking water?
Water authorities add fluoride to tap-water because they say it reduces the prevalence of tooth decay in the local population.
In the early 1930s, scientists found that people who were brought up in areas with naturally fluoridated water had up to two-thirds fewer cavities compared to those who lived in areas where the water was not fluoridated.
Several studies since then have repeatedly shown that when fluoride is added to people's drinking water in areas where levels are low, tooth decay decreases.
However, most of the countries in Europe which do not have water fluoridation did not find that their incidences of dental cavities increased. In Germany and Finland, for example, decay rates either remained stable or continued in their downward trend after they stopped adding fluoride to their drinking water. What does fluoride do?
Fluoride is said to protect the teeth in two ways:
Protection from demineralization - when bacteria in the mouth combine with sugars they produce acid. This acid can erode tooth enamel and damage our teeth. Fluoride can protect teeth from demineralization that is caused by the acid.
Remineralization - if there is already some damage to teeth caused by acid, fluoride accumulates in the demineralized areas and begins strengthening the enamel, a process called remineralization. Fluoride is extremely useful in preventing cavities and making teeth stronger. However, it is much less effective if a cavity has already formed.
According to the National Health Service, fluoride disrupts the process of tooth decay by: altering the structure of the developing enamel so that it is more resistant to acid attack. These structural changes occur as a child's enamel develops (before he/she is seven years old). providing an environment where better quality enamel is formed, which is much more resistant to acid attack reducing the bacteria's (bacteria in plaque) ability to produce acid, a major cause of tooth decay Who needs fluoride?
Virtually all public health authorities and medical associations worldwide recommend that children and adults receive a minimum (and maximum) level of fluoride. Children need fluoride to protect their permanent teeth as they are being formed. Adults also need fluoride to protect their teeth from decay.
Several people, especially those at higher risk of tooth decay, benefit from fluoride treatment. This includes individuals who have: Snacking habits
Poor dental hygiene
No (or little) access to a dentist
Diets that are high in sugars/carbohydrates
Bridges, crowns, braces, and other restoration procedures
A history of tooth decay (cavities)
Excess fluoride exposure can lead to health problems
Excess fluoride exposure may come from the following sources: Public water fluoridation
Abnormally high concentrations of fluoride in natural fresh water Dentifrice/fluoridated mouthrinse. Young...
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