Fluoride is a highly debated topic, but dentists and medical professionals agree that it is essential for optimal oral health. Fluoride treatment helps to prevent tooth decay and other oral health issues in people of all ages. Drinking fluoridated water can reduce cavities by up to 25% in both children and adults. Not only does this help to keep teeth strong, but it also saves money for families and the US health system. Industry experts estimate that only half of dental offices use fluoride varnish (personal communication, Kevin Thomas of Elevate Oral Care).
A systematic review found that fluoride treatments, such as fluoride varnish, have a substantial effect on preventing cavities in primary and permanent teeth. Clinical trials with participants ranging from 200 to 6000 people who used toothpaste containing 1.5% arginine, calcium carbonate, and fluoride found a 20% reduction in tooth decay injuries after two years compared to toothpaste without fluoride. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends fluoride treatment for all children as soon as their teeth begin to grow to prevent tooth decay, pain, and future dental infections. Dietary sugars, hygiene, and the composition of dental plaque may play a more important role than improving remineralization potential through fluoride varnish. Nurses and hygienists who can provide care in remote locations, such as schools or nursing homes, should be encouraged to use silver diamine fluoride to treat tooth decay injuries.
The CDC and the ADA recommend frequent exposure to small amounts of fluoride every day to reduce the risk of tooth decay at all ages. For 75 years, people in the United States have been drinking water with added fluoride and enjoying the benefits of better dental health. Nearly all public health, medical, and dental organizations recommend community water fluoridation. Dental sealants provide an extra layer of protection by creating a thin plastic coating on the chewing surfaces of teeth (usually the molars at the back) to prevent cavities from forming. The United States Public Health Service has established guidelines on the amount of fluoride that community drinking water should contain to help prevent tooth decay and minimize the risk of dental fluorosis. In 70 clinical trials, 24% of tooth decay injuries were prevented by using fluoride toothpaste compared to non-fluoride toothpaste, and this effect was not diminished by exposure to fluoridated water.
People who live in areas where the water does not contain fluoride can get even more significant benefits from regular fluoride treatments. For most people, this means drinking tap water with optimal levels of fluoride and brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste. As mentioned above, the prevalence of tooth decay injuries is reduced by 20-30% in populations that use fluoridated toothpaste.