Health Smiles by Rita Tempel, DDS – This article was originally published in the Gettysburg Times, September 20, 2018
Something as simple as drinking a glass of water can help fight tooth decay! And, if your community water supply is fluoridated, there’s an added bonus of fluoride, called “nature’s cavity fighter.” While the Hanover Borough Water Company adds fluoride to its water, the Gettysburg Municipal Authority does not. In this column, I will explain how fluoride helps dental health—especially in children—and how you can reap the benefits of fluoride even if it’s not in your water supply.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include “community water fluoridation” as one of the top 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. Nearly 75 percent of the U.S. population has access to fluoridated community water (as of 2012) according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Fluoride is naturally present in water, however it is generally added by water authorities in order to bring it up to the recommended level at which cavity prevention is optimal. If you are served by another source other than Hanover or Gettysburg and want to know if your water is fluoridated, the water company by law must provide a full report including fluoridation levels—either contact them or check their website.
Even though fluoride levels (in fluoridated water) are tiny, the results are powerful! According to the ADA: “More than 70 years of scientific research has consistently shown that an optimal level of fluoride in community water is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay by at least 25% in both children and adults.”
So, how does this work? Basically, fluoride helps rebuild or re-mineralize weakened tooth enamel and reverses early signs of tooth decay. This is more critical today than ever due to society’s changing diets which typically include high-sugar intake comprised of soda, candy and snacks.
Besides water, there are several other sources for fluoride:
- Make sure your toothpaste includes fluoride
- Many school health programs offer fluoride (keep reading for more info)
- Talk to your dentist about fluoride options for you and your family (keep reading for my recommendations)
I recently talked to Jeanette Slimmer, department head of Health Services, Gettysburg Area School District. A fluoride program is available to elementary aged children, kindergarten through 5th grade, whereby daily chewable fluoride tablets are provided. There’s a consent form sent home to all families at the beginning of the school year and the program is usually up and running by mid-September. The district employs a part-time dental hygienist. Based on last year’s numbers, 955 students received fluoride from a total enrollment of 1,350 including St. Francis. That a total of 71 percent, which is a good foundation for our children’s dental health.
At the dental office, fluoride comes in a variety of forms—I especially recommend foams, gels or varnishes. If a patient, whether young or mature, has decay, exposed root surfaces or numerous restorations, I recommend a professional application of fluoride. In the case of children, there are many factors that influence my recommendations and I am always happy to help parents make the best decision for their children.
Overall, it’s important to remember that fluoride fits into a healthy routine of dental habits that include brushing twice a day with toothpaste that includes fluoride, a healthy diet with little snacking or soda, plenty of water to drink (whether fluoridated or not) and regular dental checkups that may include an extra boost of fluoride, “nature’s cavity fighter.”
Dr. Rita Tempel is the owner and founder of Gettysburg Smiles, a cosmetic and family dental practice located at 2018 York Road (Route 30 East), Gettysburg. She is an Accreditation Candidate of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. For more information, see GettysburgSmiles.com, follow Gettysburg Smiles on Facebook, or call 717-339-0033.