One of the most intriguing questions about oral health is regarding the use of fluoride.
Fluorides are compounds that combine the element fluorine with another substance. Some fluorides occur naturally in soil, air, or water, although the levels of fluoride can vary widely. Just about all water has some fluoride and, once ingested, fluorides are absorbed into the blood through the digestive tract. They travel through blood and tend to collect in areas high in calcium, such as the bones and teeth.
For decades, fluoride has been used to improve dental health based on evidence that toothpastes which contain fluoride can reduce cavities up to 30%. Additionally, after scientists noted that people living in areas with higher water fluoride levels had fewer cavities, water fluoridation began in the United States in 1945. By 1962, the United States Public Health Service (PHS) recommended that public water supplies contain fluoride to help prevent tooth decay.
However, possible health effects of drinking water with fluoride has been a cause for concern, particularly the possible link between water fluoridation and cancer. Most of the concern about cancer seems to be around osteosarcoma as fluoride tends to collect in parts of bones where they are growing, causing the cells in the growth plate to grow faster, which might make them more likely to eventually become cancerous. In addition, studies have found that fluoride ingestion harmed children’s cognitive abilities and development as well as may interfere with the functions of the brain and the body.
The major sources of fluoride for most people are water and fluoride-containing dental products such as toothpastes and mouth rinses. These dental products are generally not swallowed which may cause less concern for possible health issues but children might be at risk since they may ingest a significant amount. Fluoride-free toothpaste for children is the best way to prevent any issues.
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