About 70 years ago, an interesting debate emerged in the health world when various local governments’ decided to begin adding fluoride to their cities’ drinking water. Since then, a variety of myths involving the usefulness of this decision has erupted as well. Various organizations have raised up protests that question almost every aspect of the policy.
The Problem: Tooth Decay
It’s often easy to balk at the idea of adding chemicals to food, but, from the medical perspective, fluoride is actually a very healthy, naturally occurring substance. As you can probably guess, the main benefit from fluoride is that it is a mineral that is crucial to preventing tooth decay.
Tooth decay is a common oral health malady in which harmful bacteria attack and wear away at the teeth. Most of the time, they only manage to damage the enamel (that is, the protective covering) of a tooth, but, when ignored, they can cause serious problems like cavities or even infection. Luckily, tooth decay is easy to prevent by brushing and flossing regularly can clean the mouth of the bacteria and protect the tooth.
Why Fluoride Is Needed
However, as time went along, dentists noticed that as effective as brushing and flossing is, it wasn’t enough. The damage done to the teeth between cleanings was only made worse after another meal. Thus, they decided to tackle the problem from another angle. They decided to promote not only oral hygiene but also healthy practices that can help the enamel on the teeth repair itself more quickly.
The solution is, of course, fluoride, which helps the body to reform and strengthen the enamel on the teeth. By increasing the amount of fluoride that a patient comes into contact with, dentists were able to reduce the number of cavity fillings and root canals needed to repair tooth decay damage.
Fluoride itself isn’t a dangerous chemical. In fact, it exists in almost every body of water in small concentrations. Thus, in choosing to add fluoride to drinking water supplies, dentists weren’t so much “putting” fluoride in water so much as they were adding to what was already there until the ideal concentration was reached. There are no known adverse health reactions to fluoride (besides rare allergic reactions), so you don’t have to worry about it affecting your health in other ways.