When it comes to prevention of tooth decay, most dental health providers point to fluoride, a mineral naturally present in food and some water supplies.
The San Diego County Dental Society notes that, “Today, primarily as a result of fluoride, damage caused by (cavities) can be reduced and, in most instances, prevented.”
The most common way to get that fluoride is in the water supply to the home. The most up-to-date information on the availability of fluoride in San Diego County water supplies shows varying levels, from 15 percent to 26 percent of the city of San Diego’s imported water supply being treated (fluoridated) water, to a number of county water districts having 100 percent optimally fluoridated water (Carlsbad, Escondido/Rincon Del Diablo, Fallbrook, Helix, Padre Dam, Rainbow, Ramona, Vallecitos, Valley Center and Vista.)
While there are some people who question the addition of fluoride to their water, health providers are behind it as a safe and effective measure.
“Fluoride can actually reverse the enamel breakdown of drinking soda and juice,” says Joel Cohen, policy and community education director of the Dental Health Foundation, based in Oakland. “If you get a 1-year-old a fluoride varnish, you can help prevent tooth decay.”
Dentists understand families’ concerns.
“If you have concerns about fluoridation, that should be an individual conversation with your dentist,” says Dr. Jean Chan, a pediatric dentist in El Cajon. Beyond that, she and Dr. Dino Del Fierro, a pediatric dentist in Eastlake, urge families to consider the following:
Ages 2 and older should use toothpaste with fluoride.
“Use a smudge or pea-sized amount,” says Chan.
Del Fierro says the concern is that children need to be of an age where they will spit the toothpaste out and not swallow the fluoride.
The two dentists also say to read the labels on bottled water, to see if it contains fluoride and to discuss fluoridated bottled water with your dentist to be sure you’re not going to get too much fluoride.
They also point out that some water filtering systems in the home actually filter out fluoride.
“A point-of-entry filter into the house – reverse osmosis or distillation – generally takes the fluoride out,” says Chan. “Point-of-use filters, like the refrigerator or Brita, generally don’t take the fluoride out.”
And finally, Del Fierro says, if there isn’t enough fluoride in the local water supply, dentists may recommend fluoride treatments in their offices or over-the-counter fluoride rinses.