Smiling woman cleaning her teeth whilst looking in the mirror

Fluoride: a good or a bad thing?

While sore or bleeding gums are not uncommon, they can be unpleasant. If you’re worried about the health of your teeth and gums, you might be wondering about the best way to take care of them.

Most commonly, bleeding gums are caused by gum disease, also known as gingivitis. This is a bacterial infection of the gums which can usually be reversed with careful oral hygiene.

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You will probably have heard of fluoride, a mineral which is found naturally in some food and water and is often added to toothpaste and mouthwashes. However, this ingredient has caused some concerns over potential negative health effects, especially with regards to the fluoridation of water supplies, and it is important to know the facts.

What does fluoride do for your teeth?

Your teeth lose minerals every day due to acid and plaque which form on their surface, a process called demineralisation. Fluoride works by depositing itself on the surface on your teeth, which is known as remineralisation.1 These fluoride deposits make your teeth stronger and more resistant to damage from acid and sugars from your daily diet as well as plaque bacteria.

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Where is fluoride found?

Fluoride is added to drinking water in some areas of the UK as a preventative measure against tooth decay.2 Dentists can also apply fluoride topically to your teeth during a visit. This can be in the form of a varnish or foam, which gives your teeth’s protective mineral layer a boost. Fluoride in drinking water can be a controversial topic, but the science points towards it being a positive thing for dental health. A report from Public Health England in 20143 found that areas where the water had been fluoridated showed a significantly lower rate of tooth decay among children.

Is fluoride safe?

In rare cases, fluorosis of the developing teeth can occur in children which is when the teeth become streaked or flecked with white, although it is not considered to be a problematic risk in the UK. Fluorosis is not considered a risk for adults.

Although some people may worry about fluoride, there is no scientific evidence to suggest it is bad for you in the quantities you ingest through drinking water, toothpastes, mouthwashes or occasional treatments at the dentist. Like most minerals, it can be toxic in very large, excessive doses which would be unlikely to occur by accident.

Overall, extensive research into using fluoride to prevent tooth decay and to maintain healthy gums has shown that it is safe and effective, and the positive benefits outweigh the negligible and debatable risks.4
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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Sources
  1. . [Online] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15509081.

2. [Online] https://www.nhs.uk/news/medical-practice/adding-fluoride-to-water-does-prevent-tooth-decay/..
3. [Online] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/water-fluoridation-health-monitoring-report-for-england-2014..
4. [Online] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24308396.

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