Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that’s found in groundwater and oceans in many areas of the world, and the people who live there have been drinking it for centuries. In the 1940s, dentists noticed significantly less tooth decay in areas with high concentrations of fluoride in drinking water, and surmised it was protecting people’s teeth. To study the effect, scientists added fluoride to the drinking water in one city and compared tooth decay rates to a city with untreated water.
The benefits to children who drank treated water were so obvious, researchers deemed it unethical not to immediately give both samples of kids treated water, and the study was discontinued!
Since then, fluoride has been a part of most cities’ water supply, and treatment plants supplement their water if it doesn’t contain it.
As most people know, bacteria create acids that decay the enamel on your teeth, dissolving some of the crystals that make up enamel. Fluoride carried in saliva helps rebuild these minerals and stave off tooth decay, as it combines with calcium and phosphates from your diet to re-infuse your teeth with the enamel to make it stronger!
Even more importantly, when children under the age of 16 or so drink fluoride in their water, the digested mineral is used by the teeth to strengthen their development. It’s a great way to help ensure children have a lifetime of healthy smiles! Unfortunately, fluoride only helps build teeth while they’re still developing, and most people’s teeth are fully developed before they graduate from high school.
There are a lot of misconceptions about fluoride in drinking water. Many people don’t understand that it’s present in rivers, lakes and ground water in many places around the country, or think it’s an industrial byproduct placed in the water supply. Others incorrectly worry that fluoride in drinking water can cause cancer, or isn’t safe in drinking water. Some people even question fluoride’s ability to fight cavities.
All those doubts have been thoroughly researched, and conclusively proven false. Water fluoridation is safe and effective and remains one of our best tools to fight tooth decay!