We all know it is possible to get too much of a good thing. This can also apply to our dental health. For example, brushing your teeth prevents cavities, but if you brush your teeth too often, you can damage tooth enamel.
Is the same true with fluoride? Fluoride can be extremely beneficial for our teeth. But is it possible to overdo it with this otherwise helpful mineral?
Why Fluoride is Great for Teeth
Fluoride is a mineral that helps keep tooth enamel strong. During childhood development, fluoride helps to build strong teeth and bones. Even as an adult, fluoride helps to keep tooth enamel strong and can fight enamel loss and early tooth decay.
Sources of Fluoride
Fluoride can be found in nature from certain water sources and also in some fruits, vegetables, seafood, coffee, and tea. However, the amount of fluoride in these sources can vary greatly, and many of them are not what most of us would call kid-friendly.
For that reason, drinking water is often (but not always) fortified with fluoride. Check with your municipality to find out if your tap water is fluorinated. In order to ensure your teeth get enough fluoride, the ADA recommends using fluoride toothpaste. You can also opt for a concentrated treatment at your twice-a-year dental visit.
Should You Worry About Too Much?
Like most things, even though fluoride does a lot of good, it is possible to get too much. Should you be worried? The answer is: probably not. The benefits of fluoride, particularly during tooth development, outweigh the risk and likelihood of getting too much. In addition, most natural sources of fluoride do not contain nearly enough to result in too much fluoride consumption. Even with fortified drinking water, fluoride toothpaste, and periodic dental treatments, it is very rare to get too much fluoride.
Impacts of Too Much Fluoride
There is a risk of getting too much fluoride. Before the age of eight, while teeth are still developing, too much fluoride can cause a condition called fluorosis. This condition can cause streaks, spots, or other discoloration. In some more extreme cases, pitting can happen.
The good news is that these issues are often primarily cosmetic and easily detectable by your dentist. In most cases, the discoloration is treatable and reversible. You may not notice the signs of fluorosis, which is another good reason to keep regular dental appointments.
Pay attention to notices from your public water supplier. The EPA requires them to notify customers when public water is above the recommended levels for fluoride. If you get your water from a private well, have it tested annually.
If you are concerned about you or your children getting too much of a good thing, there are ways to moderate your fluoride intake. While you should still use fluoride toothpaste with the ADA seal (unless otherwise directed by your dentist), you can lower fluoride intake by drinking bottled water or installing a reverse-osmosis water filtration system.
While a mouthwash with fluoride is a good idea for those seeking an additional source, you can certainly opt for one without fluoride if you are concerned about too much. Young children should avoid fluoride mouthwashes until at least the age of six since their swallowing reflex isn’t fully developed before that.
Check With Your Dentist
The absolute best way to see if you and your family are in the sweet spot when it comes to fluoride is to see your dentist. We are trained experts in detecting the signs of both too much and too little fluoride. If you have any concerns about fluoride, schedule an appointment to learn more!