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Information About Fluoride From Thomas M. Leonard DMD in Arlington, MA

During childhood, when teeth still are forming, fluoride works by making tooth enamel more resistant to the acid that causes tooth decay. For adolescents and adults, the benefits are just as great. Fluoride helps repair the early stages of tooth decay even before they become visible in the mouth. Further, fluoride has been effective in decreasing root caries (decay along the gum line) in older adults. In fact, studies indicate that people who drink optimally fluoridated water from birth will experience approximately 35 percent less decay over their lifetimes.
Fluoride is safe and effective when used appropriately. More than 50 years of research and experience have show that fluoridation at optimal levels does not harm people or the environment. Fluoridation of community water supplies is supported by the American Dental Association, the U.S. Public Health Service, the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has proclaimed community water fluoridation as one of ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.
Make sure all members of your family, especially children, take in fluoride every day.
  • Some communities have naturally fluoridated water supplies. If your community's water supply has low levels of fluoride, fluoride can be added to the water to bring it to optimal levels. If you are unsure about the fluoride level of your community's water, ask your dentist and/or contact your local/state health department or water supplier.
  • If your water is not fluoridated, speak with your dentist about how you and your family, especially your children, can get the appropriate amount of fluoride. Children who regularly drink bottled water, well water, or unfluoridated tap water should get their fluoride in some other way. Dietary fluoride supplements (tablets, drops or lozenges) can be an effective alternative to water fluoridation for the prevention of tooth decay. These supplements - for use by children ages six months to 16 years living in non-fluoridated areas - are available by prescription from your dentist or physician.
  • ADA-accepted toothpastes and mouth rinses containing fluoride help prevent tooth decay for both children and adults. When you shop for dental products, be sure to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance - your assurance that a product has met ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness.
  • Ask your dentist if you need the added protection of in-office fluoride treatments. Professionally applied fluorides are in the form of a gel, foam or rinse, and are applied by a dentist or hygienist during dental visits. These fluorides are more concentrated that self-applied fluorides, and are not always needed as frequently.
Unfortunately, many bottled waters do not contain optimal levels of fluoride. Some brands contain no fluoride, some have fluoride naturally, and some companies add fluoride to the water. Check the label or contact the manufacturer directly to ask about fluoride content.
Individuals who drink or cook with water processed by home water treatment systems (particularly reverse osmosis systems for distillation units) could be missing the decay preventive effects of their optimally fluoridated community water supply. Questions regarding the effect a specific home water treatment system might have on fluoride levels should be directed to the system's manufacturer.
Check the web site of the American Dental Association at www.ada.org for the latest information about fluoride and fluoridation. We also encourage you to speak with your dentist about this and other oral health issues.