By Maj. Kun-Jang Chang & Capt. Robert Wetzel, 6th Dental Squadron
/ Published October 26, 2017
MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - You have probably heard about the importance of brushing and flossing in order to maintain a healthy mouth. In fact, the American Dental Association recommends brushing twice daily for at least two minutes (yes, two minutes feels like an eternity) and flossing at least one time daily (preferably before bedtime). In addition to brushing and flossing, the ADA also recommends the use of fluoride to aid in the prevention of dental cavities.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring ion that reduces the incidence of dental cavities. Its primary action is strengthening enamel (the outer layer of teeth) to make the tooth less susceptible to decay. Fluoride also has properties that act against the bacteria responsible for tooth decay.
The anti-cavity effects of fluoride were first noted through research that showed fewer cavities in populations where naturally occurring fluoride is more abundant. Since then, more research has been conducted on the use and delivery of fluoride, and for the last 60 years, every U.S. Surgeon General has endorsed the practice of fluoridation: adding to fluoride to community water supplies to bring them to the optimal fluoride level of 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million.
Some research suggests that fluoridation can reduce rates of dental decay by as much at 40 percent. Fluoridation is so important in the fight against tooth decay, that one former U.S. Surgeon General called the practice, "the single most important commitment a community can make to the oral health of its children and to future generations."
Fortunately, the city of Tampa, Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties do fluoridate their water supplies and over the last year it has remained steady at an average of 0.7 ppm. To learn more about the fluoride levels and water quality in your community, visit the Hillsborough County website at: http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/en/residents/property-owners-and-renters/water-and-sewer/water-quality or the Pinellas County website at http://www.pinellascounty.org/utilities/fluoridation.htm.
What can you do if your area has less than optimal water fluoridation? First, you can ask your dentist or pediatrician for their recommendations concerning the amount of fluoride you and your family are consuming. He or she may recommend that you take no action. Most toothpastes contain fluoride. Some mouth rinses do too.
Fluoride can also be delivered through bottled water and other beverages that are produced in areas with adequate fluoridation. So, if you consume large amounts of bottled water from a fluoridated community, you may be getting enough fluoride. Alternatively, your dentist or pediatrician may recommend fluoride supplements in addition to or in lieu of other sources of fluoride.
For questions regarding fluoride use and products containing fluoride, you may contact the MacDill Dental Clinic at (813) 827-9400. Additional information may be found at the ADA website: www.ada.org (Click Public Programs, then Fluoride in Water).