In recent months, the city of Portland, Oregon has been debating the addition of fluoride to their city’s water supply. But in May of this year, the debate ended with a rejection of a proposal that would supply 900,000 Portland children and adults with access to fluoridated water. Portland is now the largest city in the United States without fluoride and without plans to add fluoride to their water supply anytime soon.
Fluoride has been in our water supply since the 50s, why the debate?
Portland’s water supply already has naturally occurring fluoride, though not at the levels considered to be effective in fighting cavities. Advocates for fluoridation say adding more is safe, effective and an affordable way to improve the dental health of low-income children. On the other side of the issue are opponents that describe fluoride as a chemical that will ruin the water supply, but also violates an individual’s right by forcing them to consume medication without their consent. These are two valid points; however, let’s look at what science says.
What is the best way to obtain fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral which is naturally found in water, but it is also present in the foods we eat like spinach, beef, and raisins. Besides water and food, other ways to obtain fluoride include toothpaste, mouthwash and professional fluoride treatments and fluoride varnish.
According to a 2010 study published in General Dentistry, researchers found that the controlled addition of fluoride to public water supplies is considered the most effective way to prevent cavities and tooth decay. In fact, more than 144 million U.S. residents in 10,000 communities across the country drink fluoridated water.
How does fluoride actually protect teeth and prevent cavities?
Fluoride protects the damaged areas of the tooth’s structure by strengthening the enamel through remineralization and makes the tooth structure more resistant to decay acids. It also prevents demineralization, which is when acids develop in the mouth and essentially erode the minerals found in tooth enamel, such as calcium. Once erosion begins, the enamel is more susceptible to more decay and cavities. Acids accumulate in the mouth from consuming acid-rich foods or when the sugars consumed combine with the bacteria in our mouth to produce an acid-rich environment. When fluoride is introduced into this acid-rich environment, it prevents demineralization by reducing the effect of this damaging acid. Ultimately, this is why good oral hygiene or additional help from a fluoride-rich water supply is so important.
Some Fun Facts about Fluoride
- Did you know the first city to adopt fluoride into their water supply was Grand Rapids, Michigan? The city adopted the measure just a decade after the first scientists identified it enamel-savings properties.
- In 1945, the same year Grand Rapids adopted water fluoridation; a full-scale, long-term study took place in three U.S. cities and one Canadian city where fluoride was added. Over the course of a fifteen-year period, cavities were reduced 50 to 70 percent in children living in these communities.
- Shortly after water fluoridation spread quickly, from 1966 to 1994 the percentage of 12 year-olds in the U.S. with tooth loss or decay dropped by 68 percent.
At Dr. Mark Langberg’s Cosmetic and Family Dentistry, we offer only the most modern and advanced technologies available in oral health care today. We strive to stay well versed with the rapid pace of dental care technology and development since our patients are always our number one priority. Offering a wide range of family and cosmetic dentistry treatments, we have a highly skilled and knowledgeable staff and a safe, relaxing environment that will keep your smile healthy for many years to come! Call our office at 248-356-8790 and discover the difference a great dentist can make!
That’s all for today,
Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD