Becky Larson, RDH
I am 34 years old and I have never had a cavity. I have 4 siblings, none of whom as ever had a cavity either. It wasn’t because we were lucky or because we cleaned our teeth really, really well. In fact, I never flossed regularly until I was in dental hygiene school. I was an athlete in high school and college and I was constantly eating, creating the type of environment that caries (cavity) bacteria thrive in. Combine that with just mediocre home-care and I should have had at least one cavity at some point. But I have never had a cavity! Why?
The answer is simple: fluoride. My dad is a dentist and my mom is a dental hygienist so naturally, they were concerned with our teeth. They started giving us fluoride tablets that we would ingest (like vitamins) before our permanent teeth started coming in. The result was super strong, cavity resistant enamel and no cavities!
There are many views and opinions about fluoride. In excess, fluoride can be harmful to teeth, but in correct amounts, it is extremely advantageous in preventing cavities. Nowadays, fluoride tablets are not necessary as many areas contain fluoride in the drinking water. The benefits of fluoride in drinking water include:
- Prevents tooth decay in all ages – Fluoride prevents at least 25% of tooth decay in children and adults
- Saves money – It has been said that water fluoridation is the single-most cost-effective way to prevent tooth decay (the average lifetime cost per person to fluoridate a water supply is less than the cost of one dental filling)
- Fluoride is natural – Fluoride is naturally present in oceans and groundwater. Water fluoridation includes adjusting fluoride amounts to recommended and safe levels, similar to fortifying foods and beverages with vitamins and minerals
Fluoride works by strengthening the enamel portion of the tooth and making it resistant to acidic bacteria and sugars in the mouth that can cause cavities. It can sometimes reverse early signs of decay. As previously stated, fluoride is often found in drinking water. If you are like me and like to drink filtered water, you can get the benefits of fluoride in other ways, including using fluoridated toothpastes and mouthwashes, and getting regular fluoride varnish treatments at your dental or dental hygiene visits. Many times, insurance will only cover fluoride treatments for children, however, everyone can benefit from regular fluoride treatments and they are usually inexpensive. Ask your dentist or hygienist how you can benefit from fluoride today!
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