Tooth decay and cavities are some of the most common health problems in Australia, affecting people of all ages but especially children. Decayed teeth can be painful, affect your diet and require dental treatments to repair, so it's important to look after your teeth every day.
Along with a good brushing and flossing routine, a healthy diet and regular check-ups with your dentist, health organisations recommend drinking fluoridated tap water to help protect your teeth against decay.
Although the benefits of fluoridation for oral health have long been proven, there's still a lot of false information out there that can put families at risk. Here are just a few of those misleading claims and why you shouldn't believe them.
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in the ground, in water and in many foods – not a medication. Many water supplies in Australia and around the world already contain fluoride at levels that help to protect teeth. Fluoridation programs carefully balance the level of fluoride in water to keep it at safe levels for health.
Multiple studies in Australia and worldwide have consistently found that consuming fluoride at normal levels does not increase the risk of developing diseases or other health conditions. There is no significant difference in disease rates between areas that have fluoride added to water and non-fluoridated areas.
The only condition linked to an excess of fluoride is fluorosis. This is a cosmetic condition that can stain children's permanent teeth with white flecks or mottling.
However, fluorosis does not affect a child's health and only occurs when fluoride is ingested at higher levels than recommended, such as from swallowing toothpaste. Tooth stains and discolouration may also have other causes, including injuries or trauma to a tooth, an infection or a side-effect of certain medications.
Health authorities including the World Health Organization, Australian Medical Association and American
Academy of Pediatrics conclude that fluoridated water has no risk to children of any age when consumed at safe levels. Babies who are fed on formula mixed with fluoridated water are also not at risk of fluorosis.
Far from being dangerous, fluoride helps to protect developing teeth against decay, preventing pain and reducing the need for fillings, root canals, extractions and other dental treatments.
Some European countries don't add fluoride to water supplies, but that doesn't mean it's considered a hazard.
Many of these countries instead add fluoride to salt to get the oral health benefits that way. Others simply have enough fluoride naturally occurring in water supplies already, so no more needs to be added, as in some parts of Australia.
China is the only country that has banned fluoridation outright. This is because excessive fluoride being added to water supplies over many years left the levels too high. In Australia, fluoride levels are carefully maintained to be safe for consumption.
If you or your kids are due for a check-up and clean, or you have something you want to ask your dentist, contact your local Swish Dental team in Brisbane.
Better Health Channel. Dental care - fluoride [Online] 2012 [Accessed October 2019] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/dental-care-fluoride
Queensland Government Department of Health. Common fluoride myths [Online] 2013 [Accessed October 2019] Available from: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/145730/fl_myths.pd