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BY: Dr Peter Alldritt
Fluoride is a mineral that helps prevent tooth decay. Because the enamel on your teeth is hard yet porous, acids can seep in and break down its internal structure. Fluoride helps slow down the breakdown of enamel and form new enamel crystals, which are harder and more resistant to acid.
Is fluoride safe? Absolutely. The Australian Dental Association supports the use of fluoride in water -- and fluoride in general. It’s one of the most important ways of preventing tooth decay, and public health bodies like the World Health Organization and the FDI World Dental Federation also support it. There’s been much research done on tooth decay in fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas. One study examined the South Australian town of Mount Gambier which only recently had water fluoridated. Until then, residents had double the tooth decay compared to people who used fluoridated water in Adelaide.
However, there are fluoride critics out there who say it can cause health problems. Be wary of them. If you search all the scientific literature, you’ll have trouble coming up with evidence that links fluoride to bone cancer, osteoporosis or any disease. Many studies aren’t reviewed properly, and I’d question the legitimacy of studies that advocate against it.
Fluoride is not only safe, but also inexpensive, readily available and effective. If there’s no fluoride in your water supply (and you can check with your dentist about this), another good way to get the necessary mineral is through toothpaste or mouthwash that has added fluoride. Dentists usually offer fluoride treatments, so ask yours about this at your next dental checkup.
Have another question about fluoride or another health issue? Tweet us your question @OralCareHealth and we’ll find the right expert to answer
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