Many sources condemn the use of fluoride in dental care products – so should you be using a fluoride toothpaste or not?
One resource suggests that fluoride toothpastes make up more than 95% of all toothpaste sales; I can verify this is accurate for USA sales so it’s likely to be at similar levels for the UK. Regardless, I find this a remarkably high percentage when you consider the amount of debate surrounding the use of fluoride toothpastes.
There has been a vast amount of research on how fluoride can protect our teeth from decay, so let’s take a look at the findings of a recent 2014 research report.
Unlike many other developed countries, England has no mass fluoridation of water at a national level, it has been left to individual local authorities to choose whether to add fluoride to the water supply or not. For example, Greater Manchester’s water supply is not fluoridated while the good folks of Birmingham have received a fluoridated water supply for many years. This rather strange situation does however provide a rather unique opportunity to measure the effects of adding fluoride to our water supplies.
In its report, Public Health England compared a series of health outcomes between “fluoridated” and “non-fluoridated” local authorities.
The key findings of the report were:
- On average, 5 year old children in fluoridated areas are 15% less likely to have had tooth decay than those in non-fluoridated areas.
- On average, 12-year children in fluoridated areas are 11% less likely to have had tooth decay than those in non-fluoridated areas.
- There were 45% fewer hospital admissions of children aged 1 to 4 for tooth decay in fluoridated areas than non-fluoridated areas.
How does fluoride protect teeth?
- Promotes re-mineralisation of the teeth. Acids from plaque cause the loss of minerals from the tooth – a process called de-mineralization – the presence of fluoride will attract other minerals such as calcium, this in turn, helps speed up the process of re-mineralisation that re-builds the tooth structure that was damaged by decay.
- Provides resistance to decay. When the teeth begin to re-mineralise the compound that is formed during the re-mineralisation process is much harder and more resistant to the acids that cause tooth decay.
- Fluoride slows down the formation of acids that cause tooth decay. The presence of fluoride interferes with the bacteria’s ability to process sugars and starches reducing the level of acid attack.
So how does Fluoride Toothpaste work?
Fluoride promotes a chemical reaction in tooth enamel that draws in replacement minerals into the enamel making the tooth’s surface more resistant to acid attack. When you use fluoride toothpaste you are actually coating your teeth with fluoride as you brush. Applying fluoride to your tooth enamel speeds up re-mineralisation process as the fluoride is absorbed into the enamel.
Most toothpaste’s now contain fluoride, and most people in the UK get their fluoride this way as only a small percentage of us receive a fluoridated water supply. The amount of fluoride in toothpaste is usually enough to lower the level of decay.
I am sure the debates will go on and on and I am not usually one to just follow the crowd – but at this time it’s still fluoride toothpaste for me.