Fluoride has had a bad wrap over the years. Aside from its use in toothpaste and the many benefits which that entails, there is the “dark side” of fluoride that has been used to condemn it as a problematic “chemical” which has been blamed for thyroid complaints, teeth and bone problems and supposedly affecting a nation’s IQ. Of course these are issues which relate to historic instances of too much fluoride in the water supply (and some complaints are still ongoing to this day, in the United States and the UK) which can have an impact on people’s health but fluoride is actually a necessity in daily life.
Not just for toothpaste
Fluoride is in fact used in the water supply to aid in combating tooth decay and although many people visit the dentist for regular checks, many don’t and the local authorities in many areas at home and abroad use fluoride to help contribute to the prevention of tooth decay. Fluoride comes from fluorine which helps protect by remineralisation and although there has been a question mark about how safe fluoride is in larger quantities, the water supply content is generally so low that it performs effectively toward helping fight tooth decay.
Fluoride is also used in mouth wash and supplements but it’s best known for its use in toothpaste. Among those benefits, it is also used in pesticides, cleaning agents and imaging scans for medical tests.
How much is too much?
Too much fluoride can be detrimental to your health but only small quantities are used in water supplies and the same goes for toothpaste, which contains enough for effective protection and helps strengthen enamel and bones by binding to the hydroxyapatite (the phosphate in enamel) and creates another material which is harder wearing against decay, called fluorapatite.
The known health risks are dental fluorosis, skeletal fluorosis, thyroid problems and even obesity. There’s also a train of thought that intelligence can be affected by too much fluoride, however, this is debatable and never been proven to a satisfactory level. Other effects include osteoporosis and hypertension but again, the amount you would need to consume would be significantly more than what is used in water or certainly any well-known toothpastes.
It is also present in many foods and the water supply, including:
These are just some of the foods that already contain fluorides and help toward protecting our teeth. By using fluoride in the water this is a great way of distributing a beneficial substance in bulk of which much of it would actually be used for washing produce and drinking.
Fluoride – Benefit or Hindrance?
There’s no doubt fluoride can be dangerous in large quantities but as with many things, moderation is the key and sometimes chemicals and even inorganic resources can be used for benefit.
Toothpaste is recommended because it protects our teeth but this is primarily because of the fluoride used in it. It’s actually recommended to use toothpaste for babies and toddlers with low levels of fluoride in because of the effects at such a young age but there’s no denying that this substance is effective at preventing decay and helping protect adults from cavities and strengthening enamel. Without it we’d have a lot more trips to the dentist.