17 April 2013

#54 Adding fluoride to public water supplies

Fluoride helps prevent destruction of the tooth surface caused by acids produced by bacteria. It forms a reservoir on the teeth from which fluoride is released during attack. It reduces the loss of minerals from the tooth and promotes repair of early tooth decay.

Growing children can absorb fluoride in their diet (from toothpaste of fluoridated water). It becomes part of the enamel of their developing teeth, and the enamel; is then more resistant to tooth decay.

Arguments for and against the addition of fluoride to public water supplies

  • Tooth decay in the local population of children decreases.
  • There is no need to buy fluoridated toothpaste.

  • It is form of mass medication – people have no choice  about whether or not they want the treatment.
  • Fluoride is a benefit only to growing children – adults do not benefit.
  • If people take proper care of their teeth, fluoridation is unnecessary.
  • Fluoride may have side effects, such as an increase in risk of bone cancer (but this is unlikely).

Proper care of teeth
  • Avoid sugary food, especially between meals, so bacteria cannot make acid and clean teeth regularly to remove plaque.
  • Use dental floss or a toothpick to remove pieces of food and plaque trapped between them.

  • Use fluoride toothpaste (or drink fluoridated water) – fluoride hardens tooth enamel.
  • Visit a dentist regularly to make sure and tooth decay is reacted early and any stubborn plaque (called calculus) is removed.

Common misconceptions

There is a big difference between fluoride and fluorine. Fluorine is a very toxic gas, while fluoride is a mineral that helps to strengthen teeth. Make sure do not use the term fluorine in an exam answer about teeth. 

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