In this blog post, we discover what fluoride is, how much is found in Toronto tap water, and how to know if we are getting enough. Next week, we will explore the negative effects of too much fluoride consumption and how your dentist can help.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a mineral that is widely distributed in nature, and occurs naturally throughout the earth’s crust. A healthy amount of fluoride consumption reduces tooth sensitivity, helps prevent tooth decay, and can even help your teeth rebuild areas of decay.

In North America, where the water sources do not have naturally high traces of fluoride, many municipalities add fluoride to the tap water to help prevent tooth decay. Based on recommendations of the Canadian Dental Association, and supported by Toronto Public Health, Toronto’s water is fluoridated (and has been since 1963). Fluoride levels in Toronto vary between 0.5 and 0.6 milligrams per litre (or ppm). For reference, in 2015 The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) set the optimal level of fluoride for preventing tooth decay at 0.7 ppm. Before 2015, this was 0.7 to 1.2 ppm.

How does it work?

Fluoride helps to prevent cavities in growing children and in adults.

  • In children, the fluoride that is consumed concentrates in their growing bones (which includes developing baby and adult teeth), which hardens the enamel even before these teeth emerge
  • Fluoride also helps to harden existing enamel on adult teeth, well after they have emerged through two processes:
  1. Remineralisation: when the saliva in the mouth is less acidic, it coats and strengthens the teeth by adding calcium. Fluoride makes the coating even harder than it would be naturally, creating a strong protective barrier.
  2. Demineralization: when the saliva in the mouth is acidic, it strips away the protective calcium barrier. Fluoride slows this process and makes the effect less extreme.

Am I getting enough fluoride?

  • Regular consumption of tap water from a source that has up to 0.7 ppm of fluorine (either added or naturally occurring), in addition to consuming foods that are cooked with tap water isn’t quite enough to have the desired decay-fighting effect.
  • Children and adults should also be supplementing tap water consumption with twice daily brushing with toothpaste that contains fluoride.

Curious about your water filtration device?

  • If you reach into the fridge to pour yourself cool water from an activated carbon filtration device (like a Brita filter), then you are still receiving all of the fluoride that originated from the tap.
  • Brita Faucet Filters and Pitcher Filters have been tested and verified to remove only a trace amount of fluoride over the life of a filter.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we dive into the ugly side of fluoride over-consumption.

Fluoride: the good, the bad, and the spotty (Part 1 of 2)

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