Fluoridated drinking water and fluoride in over-the-counter and prescription toothpastes are widely credited with the large reduction in dental cavities seen since these products were made available beginning in the early 1950s.
Fluoride is the 13th most common element in Earth's crust, and it is naturally present in high concentrations throughout the United States and elsewhere. Fluoride bonds with the enamel of our teeth which hardens them against the acids produced by bacteria in our mouths that can cause tooth decay.
Studies have confirmed the most effective source of fluoride to be water fluoridation.
Its use in toothpaste and its addition to city water supplies across the United States sparked a controversy 60 years ago, and the dispute continues to this day. In the United Kingdom, and in other European Union countries, fluoride is used to a much lesser extent due to fierce public opposition.
More than 144 million United States residents in more than 10,000 communities drink fluoridated tap water, providing an automatic defense against the harmful ingredients that cause such a preventable oral health disease.
Children drinking water with added fluoride helps dental health in adulthood decades later. Your fluoridation exposure at birth is affecting your tooth loss in your 40s and 50s, regardless of what your fluoridation exposure was like when you were 20 and 30 years old.
For children whose adult teeth haven't shown yet, fluoride still improves tooth enamel, the highly mineralized tissue on teeth's surface. Fluoride also helps teeth damaged from the decay process and breaks down bacteria on teeth.
Fluoride varnishes are typically used for patients who don't receive enough fluoride from other sources. Keeping fluoride in the mouth enhances its ability to arrest de-mineralization and promote re-mineralization, and varnishes are better for this purpose than fluoridated drinking water or toothpaste.
Varnish, applied quickly and easily by a dentist, is one of the most concentrated products available commercially. Varnishes that contain sodium fluoride adhere to tooth surfaces when saliva is present, providing an excellent fluoride treatment.