Fluoride is a natural occurring mineral that is found in the environment in water sources that have filtered through volcanic rocks and soil. There is no question that fluoride is an essential factor to develop and maintain strong healthy teeth. This reduces the risk of tooth decay and other oral health complications.
How is fluoride delivered?
Fluoride can be delivered to the body systemically or topically.
Topical fluorides include fluoride toothpastes, mouth rinses, gels and varnishes. These act by strengthening the teeth directly, and making them more resistant to tooth decay. However, the beneficial effects of topical fluorides, apart from varnishes, wear off easily. This is why you should wait at least 30 min after applying topical fluorides before eating or drinking again.
Systemic fluorides are ingested and integrated into developing tooth structures. Systemic fluoride can be found in tap water, fluoride supplements, and food and drinks such as shellfish, chicken, potatoes, grapes and rice. If these foods have been prepared with tap water, the concentration of fluoride is further increased. Once systemic fluoride enters the body, it can also make its way into your saliva, which provides a continual fluoride wash over your teeth.
How much fluoride is required by the body?
The amount of fluoride your body needs depends on your body weight. As a general rule, children need 0.5mg (500?g) of fluoride daily. This why kids should only use a small pea-sized amount of toothpaste on their toothbrushes, and be taught to spit not swallow. Adults need between 3 to 4mg (3000-4000?g) daily.
The upper limit of fluoride intake is 2.5 times the recommended intake. Beyond this level, fluoride may have negative health effects.
Too much fluoride can lead to fluorosis
While the right amount of fluoride intake is essential to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent oral health issues, too much can have adverse effects. If a child consumes too much fluoride as their teeth are developing, they can experience an oral condition called fluorosis.
Fluorosis leads to white or brown discolouration or spots on tooth enamel. However, it is only a cosmetic effect and affects the appearance of teeth, not their health or strength. If you are a parent and notice any of these signs, consult with your family dentist. They can determine if any discolouration is the result of fluorosis, and recommend ways to limit your child’s fluoride intake.
On the other hand, your dentist may identify signs of a fluoride deficiency, which should also be avoided as this leads to softer enamel and weaker teeth.