Fluoride is a natural mineral with a strong ability to lower the risk for cavities. It has been added to municipal water supplies since 1945, and is frequently found in toothpastes and prescription formulations. Yet ever since fluoride was first used, it has been the subject of myths and half-truths, many of which have found new life on the internet. Here is the truth behind several common fluoride myths.
Myth: Fluoride is dangerous to infants and children.
This myth is rooted in a deep misunderstanding of a benign condition known as dental fluorosis. This common cosmetic concern can cause slight white streaks or stains on the teeth, and is caused by overexposure to fluoride before the age eight. However, it does not affect dental health or functionality, nor does it cause pain.
For cosmetic reasons, dentists generally keep an eye on how much fluoride their youngest patients receive. This has led to a flurry of social media posts claiming that fluoride is dangerous, but the truth is that the American Dental Association (ADA) states that reasonable fluoride exposure is safe for children of all ages.
Myth: Fluoride causes behavioral issues and lowers intelligence.
A few foreign studies have found a possible link between fluoride and problem behaviors, as well as lower IQs. However, these studies are extremely problematic. Questionable data collection methods and a lack of peer review mean that the data obtained is unreliable. In addition, the levels of fluoride studied were much higher than the levels used in the United States. Finally, these studies failed to account for confounding variables such as arsenic exposure in the children who were studied.
Researchers across the United States have tried and failed to replicate the data obtained in the foreign studies. No ill effects from fluoridation programs have ever been found in this country, but numerous benefits have been.
Myth: Fluoride causes cancer.
It is tough to say where this pervasive myth came from, but it continues to spread like wildfire despite being repeatedly debunked. Over 50 epidemiological studies, focusing on different age groups and genders, have been performed at various times and in separate places. The truth is that there is zero evidence for any link between cancer and fluoride.
Myth: Since the majority of toothpaste is fluoridated, there is no longer any need to fluoridate municipal water.
While it is true that fluoridated toothpaste is easy to obtain, both the ADA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), still recommend fluoridating water at a level of 0.7 parts per million (ppm). In fact, there are concerns that the frequent use of bottled water could be hurting teeth, since it is not fluoridated. Dentists often prescribe fluoride tablets to children living in communities without fluoridated water, as well as those who solely or primarily drink bottled water.
Fluoride in drinking water is incorporated into the tooth structure of unerupted teeth as they are formed. This hardens the teeth. Toothpaste only works on erupted teeth.
Myth: Cash-strapped communities could save money by ending water fluoridation programs.
While many communities are struggling to tighten their budgets, the truth is that community water fluoridation has the single highest return on investment of any public health strategy. The CDC states that in communities of more than 20,000 residents, water fluoridation costs only around 50 cents per person per year. Compare that to the costs of treating tooth decay, as well as the loss of work hours to extensive dental treatments, and it is easy to see that water fluoridation remains vital.
Conveniently located in Woodbury, MN, Creekview Dental provides a progressive yet conservative approach to dental care. Our innovative, highly personalized procedures are focused on maintaining tooth structure and providing you with the healthy, beautiful smile you deserve. Call us today at 651-738-8204 to take the first steps on the road to better dental health.